Oddly, you don’t always get that sense from her music. Despite her steadfast commitment to the relationships in her life – perhaps because of it – her music can focus on isolation and the sense of being trapped in one’s head. ‘Noonside’ explores the experience of crossing through customs between Korea and the United States, taking you to a liminal non-state. ‘New York 93’ contrasts the grounding of its title in time and place with the inaccessibility of memory and home.
Yaeji’s lyrics, sung in English and Korean, also lend the music a certain opacity. Favouring abstraction over the obvious, she’s made a conscious decision to use language she thought few people could understand. “Korean was a way for me to hide what I was actually talking about,” she explains. Now, however, she keeps an ongoing notebook filled with words and phrases that she can consider for loops and lyrics on new tracks. “I realised Korean sounds really nice, just texturally. It’s almost very percussive, very angular, in a way. And I sing quietly, so it has a nice ASMR texture to it.”
Regardless, if Yaeji thought she could hide anything by singing in Korean, she may have miscalculated. “I didn’t ever imagine that Korean people would listen to this in Korea!” she says, with genuine surprise. But now, Yaeji is taking off on a global scale.
Looking ahead, she mentions the scene in Seoul in particular, where she lived for the bulk of her formative years. “Korea is in its infancy,” she tells me. “It’s a very exciting time. I do want to spend a huge chunk of time there if I can, to grow with it.”
Ever one to bump members of her musical community, she name checks a few local institutions. Cakeshop, an iconic and influential club, and Contra, its new sister venue, both showcase artists and sounds on the cutting edge; Clique Records, according to Yaeji, is the record store for dance music in Seoul; and Seoul Community Radio, a platform for the burgeoning underground music community that offers great sounds from a wide range of genres. With strong roots in place, there are exciting possibilities on the horizon.
The same, of course, can be said for Yaeji. For now, she’s just excited to be out and about, playing shows or attending them, making music or just listening to it with friends. Regardless of what she’s doing and when and where she does it, there’s no doubt that Yaeji can find and form fertile communities that enable her to flourish. Those communities will surely only widen along with her audience.
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