Ever since their first album, rock band Mot has held their ground as one of the most distinctive and consistent musicians in Korean music. With their rhythmic unpredictability, aching dissonances, and eAeon’s tearful, wounded voice, the group’s music serves well as an intimate companion during dark times (or just when you want some good, smart music). In contrast to the gnarly-ness of their first two albums, Non-Linearand Strange Season, Mot’s most recent album, Ashcraft, possesses a more accessible and sometimes even playful disposition. In it, you will hear the group try on some progressive rock, jazz, and pop garments for the first time.
Unfortunately, a handful of ballads on the album veer into predictable pop territory, such as “헛되었어,” “당신의 절망을 바라는 나에게,” “먹구름을 향해 달리는 차 안에서,” and “편히.” They don’t shimmer with the same gritty compositional genius that is expected of the band. While each song has its special moments (most notably the drop-dead gorgeous verses of “편히”), their relative predictability fails dig into the gut like Mot’s music usually does.
However, there exists a middle ground on the album in which Mot works with the pop idiom masterfully, such as in “재와 연기의 노래,” “지난 일요일을 위한 발라드,” and “잠들어 걷다.” In these tracks, Mot successfully incorporates their typical beautiful, dark, twisted-ness into a musical language that is more accessible and breathable than their usual one. ”재와 연기의 노래,” for example, opens with swirling, unoffensive chromatic melodies mixed with the rhythmic reliability of pop ballad. But these restless melodies never relax; instead, Mot stubbornly thickens and insists on the dissonance, keeping us on our toes waiting for a release of tension that they never give us. Yes!
There is a collection of songs on the album in which Mot truly sells their new, more playful sound, which has progressive rock and jazz influences: “Perfect Dream,” “Trivia,” and “Two Bass Waltz.” They’re some of the most gripping songs I’ve heard all year. “Perfect Dream” opens with an impressionistic piano riff that sizzles into a crisp, polyrhythmic tangle of synths and drums that is both emotionally meaty and a whole lot of fun. “Two Bass Waltz” has a lovely modulating chord progression led by twinkling, interlocking electronic piano riffs whose edges are so soft that you can almost taste their sweetness.
It’s great to hear Mot experimenting with their sound even if not every track on this album is a knockout. I hope that they will continue to apply their signature dissonance to new sound palettes. Although in the future, I’d love to hear more integration of their compositional ingenuity from their earlier albums, Ashcraft is another addition to Mot’s discography that sparkles with vulnerability and craftsmanship.