Peggy Gou Touches the Timeless on ‘I Hear You’

BY Chris BrysonPublished Jun 5, 2024


When creating her debut LP I Hear You, Peggy Gou envisioned herself as a star from a bygone era of rave culture that didn't exist in 1990s South Korea. Back then, Europe's club sounds had yet to reach her homeland's shores, and it was a while until Gou moved to Berlin for her enlightenment in EDM. Creating industry connections while schooling herself at Berghain, Gou continued setting her sights higher. In the decade since she's developed a cult following, become a fashion icon and in-demand DJ performing increasingly high-profile sets, launched her own music and streetwear labels and achieved dance music stardom, all before her first LP landed.

Producing with a colourful palette of '90s-inspired house, techno, disco and beyond, Gou's allure comes from her simple, sleek and sophisticated structures and ability to craft immersive and affecting nostalgia flowing with bright hooks and breezy earworm melodies. Standouts tend to be kinetic technicolour thumpers, and many already feel like classics; "I Go," her hypnotic Eurodance-esque 2021 standalone single, fits perfectly on I Hear You's final stretch. With skittering drums weaving through bubbly bass and spacey pulses, "I Go," borne from a bathroom note of motivation that's become a blissfully bountiful charm, is one of the collection's most addictive tracks. Two more are last year's star-making summer dance hit "(It Goes Like) Nanana"— a scintillating soundtrack to indescribable feelings galloping on glistening synths,vintage piano licks and pitch-bent guitar from ATB's "9 PM (Till I Come)" lifting its infectious Balearic bounce — and "I Believe in Love Again," a collab with Gou's childhood idol Lenny Kravitz, who lends his seductive vocals to the song's gripping groove. Of course, he lays down some guitar riffage too, but the interplay between Kravitz's vocals and Gou's techno percussion steals the show; the latter's sharp off-kilter signatures slicing fluorescent lines through the former's silky delivery.

Gou is known for exciting eclecticism in her DJ sets, and this quality shines with growing versatility on I Hear You. Like the surrealist Salvador Dalí sculpture that it's named after, "Lobster Telephone" is funky and sideways, with rubbery basslines and vibraphone hooks, one of many tracks mixing Korean and English lyrics. The non-singles, several out of Gou's house-pop wheelhouse, give the collection deeper dimensions and an album's flow and pacing, breaking up bangers with stylistic shifts. Take "Seoulsi Peggygou (서울시페기구)," a cross-cultural duelling of rapid-fire drum & bass and graceful gayageum, a traditional Korean stringed instrument that imbues an otherworldly aura. Her rework of Olafur Eliasson's poem "Your planet seen from within," originally written to accompany the Icelandic-Danish artist's 2022 TIME magazine cover, colours opener "Your Art," where Gou beams in from another dimension, pushing one to "be present" and "create your universe anew." Eliasson also designed the refracted Psychoacoustic empathy amp earpieces Gou wears on the album's cover. Elsewhere "All That," backgrounded by twinkly old-school hip-hop beats and samples from Kevin Lyttle's "Turn Me On," detours through laidback Spanish bars from rapper Villano Antillano. It's a dreamy collaboration with soulful chorus duets, but Antillano's flow feels light on the edginess that excites her solo work.

The penultimate "Purple Horizon" gets dubby and a tad darker, its acid breakbeats and sprightly keys putting on a light show for ghostly chants as "1+1=11" closes the record on a high note of euphoric trance. While some lyrics can be a bit silly and not all songs leave the same impact, I Hear You is a masterful first full dose of Gou's kaleidoscopic "K-house," paying tribute to the dance music of her youth while advancing her forward-thinking retro sound. Designed for finding communion with others while staying true to oneself, I Hear You touches the timeless with an ethos of openness, striking a vibrant and dynamic balance between familiarity and freshness.

(XL Recordings)

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