With A Hammer



Cultural theory discourse in the 21st-century has been dominated by discussions around the ‘slow cancellation of the future’. Neoliberal culture has rewarded market-friendly revivalism and nostalgia, slowly hampering the conditions required to produce art that is shockingly ‘new’. However, the internet’s ascent to global omnipresence is starting to shift the nature of this discussion. With A Hammer by Yaeji is a shining example of a work that feels bracingly new in a way that only a richly-connected global culture could have generated.

Its blend of musical approaches as well as pluralistic embrace of identities (in this case Yaeji’s Korean-American heritage) is thrillingly realised. She interweaves Korean-language lyrics with others in English in effortless fashion, highlighted by ‘Submerge FM’, which fluidly shifts between the two as if flicking between browser tabs. ‘Ready Or Not’ goes further, turning its Korean-language lyrics into fractured blips that echo like a whole new digital language of their own.

Musically, With A Hammer develops a similarly unique language. Taking cues from hyperpop, drum and bass, house and footwork, but in possession of its own sense of maximalist colour, the album moves according to its own unpredictable rhythms. Few tracks adhere to familiar structures or motifs, instead developing as their own independent entities. ‘Ready Or Not’ is especially engrossing, as are the glistening digital textures of ‘Done (Let’s Get It)’, and the Arthur Russell-esque reverberations of ‘1 Thing To Smash’.

With A Hammer actually is all the more admirable for its accessibility. Rarely does it feel challenging, even in its moments that venture furthest from familiarity. Its singular musical imagination and elegant blend of cultures, as well as its surprising accessibility, make this debut Yaeji full-length a gripping, joyous riposte to those who seek to cancel the future.