For all his adventures in electronic music, Lee Jeeren, or Humming Urban Stereo, loves dance music. Throughout his career as a producer, Humming Urban Stereo firmly placed his music in upbeat dance that’s energetic and quite, seemingly at the same time. For his tenth anniversary in the business, Humming Urban Stereo’ latest release, Reform, the electronic producer redoes several hits from that quieter era, with a brighter touch that keeps his trademark nostalgic feel.
The signature Humming Urban Stereo style changed with the release of Sparkle, a record that was louder, harder and made for a large party. Where past Humming Urban Stereo dealt with love and sex in a one-on-one, intimate setting, “Sparkle,” as the hilarious video for “Love Jam” ends with, is in your face, and I loved it. For “Reform,” that attitude continues, with a nod to 70’s disco. The theme for this record is go hard or go home, and Humming Urban Stereo delivers.
Starting with “Scully Doesn’t Know,” he ditches the acoustic guitar and replaces it with a killer electric guitar riff and a great bass line to match. G.NA takes over the vocals, with better English phrasing, and I’m guessing helping in filling out the gaps in the original lyrics. With years under his belt, Humming Urban Stereo can bring out vocals better, making G.NA sound clearer than her predecessor. That clarity in production continues in his treating of Ashley from Ladies’ Code as well as his vocal alter ego, Brown Bunny.
On “Salad Days,” Brown Bunny, along with the redone production, makes the song lighter in tone, shedding some of the melancholy off the original. All of these changes are in keeping with Humming Urban Stereo’s new direction in dance music, and while they do lean away from the simplicity of those earlier songs, “Reform” shows that HUS is doing a great job in changing his approach. I thought “Sparkle” might have been a one-time success, but “Reform” is anything but a flop.
With rules come exceptions, however. On the NS Yoon G track “Insomnia,” Humming Urban Stereo keeps the acoustic guitar, but does away with the dance production of the original, or with the dance remixing overall from this record. The new track feels like a fast ballad, with the guitar picking up the pace during the chorus. Here, HUS shows he can go back to his earlier moments if he wants to, without sacrificing anything for nostalgia’s sake. The other exception is the new “지랄,” with Brown Eyed Girls’ Narsha.
Bringing his sound to the 80’s, it has a decidedly synth-pop style Glen Check used in Cliché, but much messier. The song is processed beyond belief, as if Narsha’s drowning in electronic muck while dealing with her ex’s shit. This new iteration matches the lyrics better, translating the words into electronic anger. This track, plus “Waltz Sofa 10th Anniversary,” hint at what could be the future HUS sound; instead of the glitter of 70’s disco, he’s going into 80’s synth-pop territory. If that’s true, I’ll gladly follow, because these two songs are stellar synth-dance numbers by Humming Urban Stereo.
Humming Urban Stereo continues his exploration of dance music throughout the ages in “Reform,” re-imagining his well-known early hits into 70’s and 80’s dance gems. The idol ladies do a great job updating the vocals, bringing much needed clarity and new interpretations to the tracks. Brown Bunny’s presence is a welcome sign Humming Urban Stereo isn’t ditching his past completely while moving forward in scope. In “Reform,” we see how far Humming Urban Stereo has come, and how well he’s made the transition from rookie lounge music aficionado to well-known electronics producer.