Clawing its way through the obscurity of darkness, a vibrant synthesizer welcomes all who have just pressed play on Woongi’s new album, Rip’s Cuts, with a deliciously decadent opening salvo in “Rare Bird,” the record’s opening cut. After close to a minute of noisy spinning, we find a bit of stability in a light pop rhythm that will take as many twists and turns as a theme park rollercoaster would. Around two and a half minutes into the song, we find ourselves in the middle of a slothful sonic breakdown that takes us directly into the dexterous “Tailwhip,” a violent but melodic jam that pins together the larger than life intro with the slickly streamlined meat and potatoes of this divinely designed LP.
“Green M&Ms” flirts with post-punk melodies and uses a mystical synthesizer to crush a predictable groove into a scattered, beautifully obtuse instrumental immaculacy, and further sets us up for the chilling “Antiques” like no other song could have. The single “Fire’s Dead” has a sporty little MGMT-style rhythm that every component in the instrumentation is structured around, but the foundational beat doesn’t steal all of the thunder away from the chic lead vocal. Along with “Not Sad Sequence,” “Fire’s Dead” has been attracting a lot of critical attention towards Woongi lately, and it doesn’t take much more than a cursory listen of either track to fully understand why. Both are college radio-ready, but they’re bolstered by effervescent basslines that are a testament to the band’s rebelliousness and originality.
“Sad Sequence” picks up with “Not Sad Sequence” leaves off and delves into a synthesized harmony that is striking but not overpowering in the least. I found “Tired Fortress” to be a bit more endearing, and it’s no doubt because of its unforgivingly heavy lead-in, which is enough to convince me – and likely any hardcore indie rock aficionado – that Woongi are working with an extremely refined palate in regards to their songwriting. There’s so much to be studied here, so many layers to be taken apart, but I wouldn’t say that Rip’s Cuts is too calculated for the non-audiophiles among us. There’s a pop sensibility left perfectly intact on this album, and that hasn’t always been the case among the output of Woongi’s closest competitors this year.
In “Turns,” we slow down for a second to bask in the glow of a righteously reverberated vocal, only to find an extension of its yearning in the neighboring “Chance,” which plays out with an elegance that I would love to hear more of in future recordings. “Terry’s Cottage” reprises the acrylic beats of “Tired Fortress” for another round of chaotic crooning, and while it concludes Rip’s Cuts on a searing, somewhat melancholic note, it’s elegiac nature has yet to stop me from picking through the tracklist again and again since first acquiring my own copy of this album. Woongi really outdid themselves with their new record, and for my money, it’s a watershed release for the surreal pop movement that the band has been near the forefront of for a few years now.
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