[Korea] FOG – “Fogesque”

Though Korea hasn’t produced as steady a flow of shoegaze as continental counterparts such as Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia, its output with regard to the genre has been solid.  Bands like Vidulgi OoyoO and UHF Seoul, and genre-adjacent acts such as Aseul and Say Sue Me have been notable representatives of Korean shoegaze and dream pop over the past decade-plus.  However, beyond a small number of bands and a Korean Loveless tribute, delving into the dreamy realm of the domestic scene has been difficult.

At the start of 2019, there was a brief surge of Korean shoegaze acts on Bandcamp.  The most impressive of these bands was FOG, whose “Shine/DreamingDreamingDreaming” single was an immediate attention grabber.  The band went on to publish a number of songs including a previously released demo album and it was obvious that this Seoul-based quartet was something special.  This week, they dropped their proper full-length debut, Fogesque, and introduced themselves as the new face of Korean shoegaze.

FOG’s strength is building incredible space using a cascade of guitars so deep and drenched in reverb that comparisons to Slowdive were immediate and perfectly understandable. Crafting within that vast space using dancing melodies and chilling, whispering vocals results in sheer bliss at a drugged-out stroll of a pace.  Fogesque is a perfect showcase of that ability and more via a blend of new music and some beefed up versions of older songs.

Four of the tracks on Fogesque are new versions of songs that first appeared on the aforementioned demo album from 2018, The Harder We Push, The Faster Well All Get Outta Here.  The standout of the callback portion of the album is “Dark Room”, which was hauntingly gorgeous in its demo form, but received a considerable amount of additional depth thanks to the production work of drummer Hwanho Lee (aka Bang9suk).   Perhaps the most fun result of the uptick in production quality is “Dehumidifier”, which taps along before a very harsh turn into a squall of guitar noise.  Admittedly, the dynamic change is a bit jarring at first, but there’s something wholly satisfying about such a violent eruption from the peaceful lull that leads up to it.

The new music on the album shows the band’s ability to continue writing fresh, strong shoegaze tunes using their usual formula.  If there’s one single best moment on the entire album it’s the exhale into the chorus of lead single “Nocturne”.  The burst of guitars and piercing melodic lead is tonal perfection.  And while the fadeout at the end of the track feels like a bit of a premature come down, the dense, dreamy haze continues into “Listless” and on into “Acid Dream”.  

Whether intentional or not, the placement of bouncy, whimsical dream pop tune “Dearest” smack in the middle of the album feels like a strategic palate cleanser before the wall of sound kicks back in on “Space Space Space Shuttle”.  From there, the band dives into deep textural exploration en route to the absolutely stunning finale of “Dark Room”.  

After almost two years of buildup, FOG’s new album is a statement that they are the band at the forefront of Korean shoegaze in this new decade.  Whether or not there’s a new wave of domestic artists poised to follow their lead, the young foursome has a bright future ahead of them on the back of a beautiful, deep sound that should appeal to a wide audience far outside their home country.  Fogesque is just the beginning.  

You can purchase Fogesque in digital or limited edition CD formats over at FOG’s Bandcamp page here:  https://phoque0twisted.bandcamp.com/album/fogesque

Asia Roundup: Three New Releases From Boring Productions

Shenzhen, China-based indie label Boring Productions just put out a trio of physical releases, including a vinyl version of the stellar debut full-length, Phantasms, from Manila dreamy indie pop outfit The Strange Creatures.  The   record was three years in the making, during which the band welcomed in vocalist Megumi Acorda (whose brilliant solo work you can find here) and ran into some other obstacles.  But the album is finished and it’s here to be heard in all its jangly dream pop glory.

The other releases include a pair of 7″ versions of previously released material out of Indonesia.  The first is three tracks of hazy synth-laden dream pop from Depok-based duo The Sweetest Touch titled Too Many Dust, Too Many Haze.  The Sweetest Touch keeps it short and super sweet on the EP, crafting simple but catchy reverb-soaked electronic pop tunes.

Odd Gesture‘s debut EP Odd Fucking Gesture EP, which was originally released this past February, got a much welcome physical release as well.  The twee-punk effort is a harsh-but-catchy throwback to early MBV, tonally abrasive and well textured.  There’s even a playful diss track directed at Indonesian indie pop mainstay Sharesprings.

It’s worth taking a dive into the rest of the Boring Productions catalog, which is loaded with tons of shoegaze and bedroom pop gems from all over the place.

[Taiwan] TuT – “You Got Me When I Stare At You”

So I’ve already professed my love for the intimacy of demo tracks despite the general lack of overall sound quality. In particularly I was a big fan of the “Send Me” demo released earlier this year by Taiwan’s TuT (pronounced “tee-you-tee”). This summer the band released a bunch of other demos that they’d recorded live at the studio over the last year, and needless to say I was in the sort of odd heaven that muddy guitars, too much hi-hat, and vocals that sound like they were recorded from the other side of the room can create. I love it.
That being said, I was stoked to see that TuT stealth got the copies of their debut album You Got Me When I Stare At You earlier this week from the pressing factory. While demo tracks offer the sort of nostalgia that takes me back to the vast library of shoddy recordings I’ve made myself, it doesn’t compare to the excitement of being able to hear the instruments at proper levels and get a better feel of what the band is made of (because it’s actually audible). Fortunate to get a copy, I popped on my headphones and got lost in a gorgeous shoegaze record on my train ride home.

The album’s title track, which will premiere on this week’s episode of Muso Asia, is absolutely beautiful. Wrapping textures around a simple guitar melody while showcasing the band’s double barreled male/female vocal harmonies, TuT makes you wait to hear how the improved recording environment would show off Fifi’s sweet, breathy vocals – but only for one track.

There is a lot more balance between the two vocalists on the album, but neither disappoints and the harmonies are stunning, particularly on “Little Child”. From start to finish, You Got Me When I Stare At You, features the loud, grimy guitars that seem so much an integral part of the Taiwanese shoegaze scene when compared to bands from the continent.  It would seem to be an obvious quality of shoegaze music, but the balance between volume and subtlety, grit and elegance that TuT maintains gets the whole “beautiful noise” thing right.

TuT’s demos were great, but their move to a proper studio has yielded some spectacular results.

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