Rainbow99 has proved himself to be a master with atmosphere. Among other great releases, his 2013 album DREAM POP served up deep, dreamlike spaces for the listener to lose themselves in. Rainbow99 continues this trend with SEOUL, an album packed with shadowy atmospheres that could play in the background of a stylish crime/noir film. Rainbow99 maintains DREAM POP’s atmospheric depth, but this time with more of a trip-hop flavor akin to Portishead or Massive Attack.
But SEOUL isn’t just stylish; it also has plenty of emotional substance. If DREAM POP was a lighthearted dream, then SEOUL a much more raw and visceral one. It boasts an emotional intensity that is rarely done convincingly in the atmospheric/ambient genre. Rainbow99’s ability to balance drama and dreaminess is commendable.
The tracks with vocal lines are particularly moody, such K.AFKA, one of the stormiest songs I’ve heard all year. Others include “새벽비,” “봄,” and “홍대입구,” which have restless, pensive atmospheres. Rainbow99 does a great job at blending the vocalists seamlessly into the sounds around them, and by doing so creating an airtight dreamworld.
The album is arranged eloquently. Rainbow99 actualizes his musical ideas with clarity and patience, paying close attention to texture, color, and layering much like a quality painter would with their artwork. SEOUL is packed with nuances such as voice distortions, violin lines, or complex percussion layers that seem slight but actually play a big role in bringing the music to life.
SEOUL deserves respect for being so carefully crafted both in arrangement and atmosphere. Rainbow99 offers up dark, hypnotizing spaces that sparkle with style and detail. SEOUL is excellent follow-up to DREAM POP, providing somewhat of a dramatic contrast but also maintaining what we love about Rainbow99.