Korea Town Acid Toggles Between the Gritty and the Avant-Garde on 'Metamorphosis'

BY Kyle MullinPublished Apr 22, 2021

The splendor of Seoul's nightlife is vividly evoked on "Bounce." But this is, thankfully, not the Seoul that some Western listeners might expect to find. The second single from Toronto producer Korea Town Acid's latest album, Metamorphosis, "Bounce" sizzles with reverberating bass, shudders from abrasive key notes, and reels from featured British-Korean rapper Pianwooo's careening bars. Those edgier elements are joltingly contrasted with melodic synth spurts. The music video follows suit with shots of the South Korean capital's shimmering skyline, juxtaposed with cybergothic scenes. "Bounce," like much of Metamorphosis, is far removed from the posher K-Pop or 88Rising trap sweeping the international mainstream. Instead, these 10 tracks beckon the uninitiated into the Asian diaspora's endlessly innovatively underground.

The Seoul-born, Toronto-based Korea Town Acid (born Jessica Cho) achieves this feat by applying her improvisational live music experience to electronica and hip-hop hardware, composing intricately unpredictable soundscapes rather than relying on loops. The singular results prompted Canadian rap mainstay Cadence Weapon to recruit the up-and-comer to build one of her dystopic beats for his upcoming album, Parallel World. Stunning as that behind-the-scenes contribution is, Metamorphosis makes a case for Korea Town Acid's own time in the limelight.

Standout track "Into the Future" sizzles and squeals like a circuit board on the fritz, as hauntingly dissonant drones meld with vocals that don't merely sound altered, but shone through a prism until they flare anew. "There's No Turning Back," meanwhile, sports purring synths and humming keys, along with rapidly rattling percussion, recalling a souped-up Kawasaki weaving through traffic-clotted Tokyo. And then there's the echoing, steel drum-evoking percussion on "This World Is Sick," reverberating at a cool distance, as if on guard from the title's notion.

Yes, her eclectic compositional skills are nothing to scoff at. But Korea Town Acid boasts an equally impressive knack for gripping juxtapositions throughout Metamorphosis. Prime example: the swelling distortion mingling with classical piano sprinkles on "Eclipse," as South Korean rapper PNSB spits with growing aggravation. Better still, however, are the crisp hip-hop drums and sci-fi synths of "Curtain Call" suddenly giving way to breezy retro-jazz piano in the closing quarter.
With her teaming of improvisation and electronica, incorporation of hip-hop into the cutting-edge, and her effortless toggling between the gritty and the avant-garde, Korea Town Acid self-assuredly strides into the spotlight with Metamorphosis.

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