In 2016, Peggy Gou made digital waves declaring she "would like to be the youngest and first Korean female DJ that plays [Berlin institution] Berghain," in an interview with Dummy. In the same year, the Berlin-based, South Korea-born DJ/producer charged onto the scene with a prolific spree of colourful, disco-inflected house records on Phonica White, Rekids, and Ninja Tune imprint Technicolor, averaging a gig a week. More intensified touring brought a year without a release, but less than a quarter-way through 2018, she's back with her fifth EP, Once, this time under Ninja Tune proper.
By now, Gou's played Berghain a few times, and here, Gou's confidently emerging from the road with a club-polished sound, perfectly retooled to incorporate a new voice: her own. The producer's voice has featured on tracks as old as Day Without Yesterday b-side "Six O Six" — but Once (record opener "It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)" and closer "Han Jan," specifically) marks the first time in her career she's sung on a recording. All provided mostly in her native Korean, it's a thoroughgoing move that reiterates Gou's uncompromising call for Korean representation in the broader dance music world, while importantly bucking the same Korean music stereotypes she critiqued in that Dummy feature.
Unlike k-pop's hectic bombast, Gou's is atmospheric if kinetic music, pacing out personal space in grounded sashays, with vocal deliveries that are cool and understated, adding unprecedented rhythmic flows that will fit just as naturally in live sets built mostly on her back catalogue.
The three tracks we get here are all throbbing house cinematically imbued with soft acid lines, techno vigour, and disco swing, all brilliantly buoyant and certifiably fresh. "It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)" is a breezy, sizzling affair; "Hundres Times" thumps with posh indulgence; and "Han Jan" is a distant, twirling party anthem. But Gou tempers her runway swagger with chill, gliding touches; "It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)" and "Han Jan" practically drift on their laid-back vocals, and riding the catwalk flash of a four-on-the-floor hi-hat/kick combo, "Hundres Times" struts up the carpet while peering off into an acid-washed nightscape.
There's a slick, infectious energy to its bustling groove, but Once resists full-blown escapism by tethering the immediacy of its propulsion to more scenic ambience, and Gou's at her best dealing in this kind of dualism. (Ninja Tune)