mu­sic

MARTA COLOMBO ex­plores the psy­che­delic deep-house sounds of ris­ing Korean-Amer­i­can pro­ducer YAEJI

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The psy­che­delic deep-house sounds of ris­ing Korean-Amer­i­can pro­ducer Yaeji

LLISTENING TO YAEJI’S dreamy techno-in­fused house is a psy­che­delic ex­pe­ri­ence. On her two EPs, Yaeji and EP2 (both re­leased in 2017), she mas­ter­fully mixes el­e­ments of deep house, EDM and dance with soft English and Korean vo­cals that she sings her­self. In less than two years, the 25-year-old Korean-Amer­i­can DJ and vo­cal­ist has become a recog­nis­able name with her unique ap­proach to dance mu­sic. She's bro­ken cul­tural and artis­tic bound­aries, has al­ready landed a spot on the pres­ti­gious BBC Sound of 2018 list, and has played in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals in­clud­ing Coachella and Sonar.

Yaeji, born Kathy Yaeji Lee, is ev­ery­thing that you'd ex­pect from a con­tem­po­rary woman mak­ing mu­sic. From her quirky out­fits to her de­ci­sion to make mu­sic in the two lan­guages she grew up speak­ing be­tween South Korea, Queens, Long

Is­land and At­lanta, the 88ris­ing artist makes in­trigu­ing, inim­itable tracks that re­flect her mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

Hail­ing from Brook­lyn, where she's now a re­spected mem­ber of the vi­brant lo­cal artis­tic com­mu­nity, Yaeji makes polyan­dric art – she pro­duces her own mu­sic, spins records, sings and cre­ates vis­ual con­tent. With an “act lo­cal, think global” ap­proach, she's also been host­ing her ul­tra-pop­u­lar par­ties “Yaeji and Friends” in her neigh­bour­hood, which sell out in min­utes.

If you don't know who Yaeji is – and it isn't for the fact that her “im­por­tance” is cer­ti­fied by the blue tick – you cer­tainly wouldn't know it from her In­sta­gram posts, where the glo­be­trot­ting DJ and pro­ducer ap­pears as a quirky, hip mu­sic lover who's equally pas­sion­ate about Amer­i­can and Korean pop cul­ture.

Yaeji's uni­verse takes per­fect shape in her glitchy mu­sic videos. Some scenes in “Rain­gurl”, the smash­ing house hit that's an­noy­ingly ad­dic­tive, seem in­spired by a clas­sic Wong Kar-wai movie and could be mis­taken for a short avant-garde film you'd see at a con­tem­po­rary art ex­hi­bi­tion in Ber­lin. Yet it's just Yaeji, danc­ing to her own tunes in a trans­par­ent rain­coat, sur­rounded by some of her artist friends in an ode to Brook­lyn's evolv­ing rave scene.

One of Yaeji's most vi­ral tracks – lis­ten­ing to it two times is enough to be se­duced – is the ec­cen­tric “Drink I'm Sip­pin On”, which fuses Korean and English with hip-hop and trap el­e­ments. Strangely enough, it's quite com­mon to see young adults and teenagers all over the US, Asia and even Europe singing along (in both English and fake bro­ken Korean) in clubs and at fes­ti­vals – some­thing that her most loyal fans keep men­tion­ing across so­cial me­dia plat­forms. In a re­cent video in­ter­view with mu­sic web­site Ge­nius, Yaeji ex­plained that the song was born dur­ing her daily com­mute, from a mo­ment of in­tro­spec­tion while us­ing an app on her phone that pro­duces ba­sic loops and sounds. The English part, ac­cord­ing to her, rep­re­sents the part of her­self that feels con­fi­dent. When she uses the Korean ex­pres­sion그게아니야

(or “that's not it”), which she de­scribes as “pho­net­i­cally beau­ti­ful and al­most ther­a­peu­tic”, she ex­poses her in­se­cu­ri­ties. Most of the lyrics, like in many other tracks, are con­fus­ing on pur­pose – and that's what makes her mu­sic fas­ci­nat­ing be­yond the club ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mass-mar­ket EDM isn't usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with sto­ry­telling, but Yaeiji proves that it's pos­si­ble to make dance­able, ex­hil­a­rat­ing hits that carry a mes­sage and rep­re­sent her back­ground. While her tone is hushed, in­ti­mate and al­most whis­pered, lend­ing her songs a chill in­die-like at­mos­phere, the en­er­getic beats of the bass re­ally get you danc­ing hard. Yaeji pro­duces the type of mu­sic that makes you “dance like no­body's watch­ing” or, like her, makes you not care if any­body is. Maybe that's what her fans and friends re­fer to when they say “rav­ing like and with Yaeji”.

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