With only one full album and one EP under his belt, Xin Seha has already made himself quite the icon through his music, fashion, and music videos. His 80s-inspired synth-funk is at once pointedly nostalgic and inventive. With his stylistic clarity, self-awareness, and knack for saying more with less, Xin Seha’s distinct brand of cool pops in whatever he does.
His recently released EP, 7F, The Void,is the more lush, dream-poppy companion to his taut synth-funk album from 2015. Xin Seha has made it clear in his music videos that he is influenced by stylish, atmospheric Hong Kong films from the 90s such as Chungking Express or Rebels of the Neon God. My inkling is that the soundtracks of these films—which frequent slow instrumental tracks with atmospheric synth pads, simple electric guitar and bass lines, and reverb—are making their way through in his music.
The opening track, “7F,” is straightforward but sizzling: it’s headed by a syncopated synth bass line and light percussion that lays out the pulse. The chemistry between these two parts are kept simmering with various fills and interjections as Xin Seha serves his vocal magic overtop. Xin Seha’s trademark restrained-but-luxurious synth playing is evident here and for the remainder of the album. “7F”‘s sister track is “Balcony,” which has a similarly tasty blend of a syncopated synth bass line, a steady beat to contrast it, and warm synths that glue everything together. It is particularly apparent in these tracks that Xin Seha’s singing is more stylized and varied in inflection than it was in 24Town.
“Timeline” and “마음에 들지 않아” are related in their elegance. “Timeline”’s melodies are watery and improvisatory. Xin Seha spends the entire song in a sweet spot between talking and singing, which is complimented by the feathery synths and nicely contrasted by angular guitar and drum parts. At once lightweight and compact, the track is satisfyingly organic.
“마음에 들지 않아” is the most emotionally forward Xin Seha song I’ve heard yet. The moody chord progression at the beginning is its foundation: it’s savory enough to be repeated without going stale, but simple enough to be expanded upon. From it, Xin Seha overlays a melody that ebbs and flows and gradually adds more layers to the arrangement such as synth lines and vocal riffs. It’s a shadowy, elusive little delicacy of a synth-pop ballad.
The title track, “Tell Her,” opens with an oddball chord progression, but Xin Seha finds a way to craft it into throwback pop gold. I can’t say I’m entirely convinced of the hook, which pivots between two notes that are used too frequently in the verses to pique my interest. Regardless, the arrangement deserves a hand for its lively rhythm, creative gestures and interjections, and subtle textural shifts throughout.
In 7F The Void, Xin Seha is successful in exploring new musical territory while continuing the offerings of his first album. He experiments with different singing styles, sound worlds, and structures, all while maintaining his signature 80s-inspired funkiness and stylish restraint. He isn’t wasting any time showing off his chops; he’s making music he enjoys, which makes it incredibly easy for us listeners to do the same.