The Koxx are one of the first bands I mention to people asking for Korean indie recommendations. Their music is high-octane, smart, and colorful. They were on a hiatus because of members serving their mandatory military service, but they have now returned with a single. I have yet to be disappointed with one of their releases and “Trojan Horse” continues that trend.
You can find all The Koxx staples in “Trojan Horse”: a thick, busy wall of electric rock sounds, syncopated and polyrhythmic guitar lines, and abrupt changes in texture and tempo. However, The Koxx sound more emotionally involved than ever. They are at once high-octane and poignant, a balance I’m not sure I’ve heard from them yet. Although the song is emotive, you can still dance yourself silly to it… success!
What I think sets “Trojan Horse” apart from the group’s earlier material is their increased attention to melody and harmony rather than rhythm and texture. The melodic contour and interplay is great, whether it be Hyunsong’s main vocal line, the accompanying guitar and synth lines, or the melodic interludes from section to section. Rather than fragmented melodies, this single has several long, legato melodies that are striking against an angular electric rock backdrop. There is more interplay between the lines than your usual The Koxx song, resulting in tasty build ups that add to the emotional narrative.
One particular line that struck me was in the second half of the chorus, when the vocal line jumps up to a major seventh and is beautifully harmonized by the backup vocals. Since the rest of the melodies in the single use such small intervals, this leap is particularly satisfying.
For a five minute single, the song is extremely active harmonically. There are five different keys in the song including some oddball scales and modes. The Koxx transpose gracefully by use of chromaticism, making all of these key changes convincing and dynamic.
I’m sure some listeners miss the completely off-the-wall Koxx that was ACCESS OK. I too would eventually love to hear that side of them again. But “Trojan Horse” is an exciting development for The Koxx in melodic, harmonic, and emotional depth, and I’m content if they choose to stay here for a little while.