Pento owns one of the most distinctive sounds in the history of Korean hip-hop. He offers a combination of industrial hip-hop, trip-hop, and experimental electronic music, with a rapping style that is simultaneously nonchalant and driving. After five years, he’s back his third full album, Adam, which is more focused and accessible than his earlier albums. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still crazy.
Adam is a vast album. It’s packed tight with assertive synths, percussion instruments, voice distortions, and eclectic samples. Although this sounds like a lot, Pento brings all these things together tastefully. His dark, greasy jungle of sounds is alienating but somehow addictive. There’s a lot going on to weird the listener out, but also enough charisma and emotional conviction to engage them.
There are some really tasty moods on this album, specifically in “Thunder,” “Monolith,” “Doomsday,” and “Funeral.” Each of these tracks feature a rumbling bass line topped with spastic guitars and synths. But there’s always a long, stylish synth line and a good hook that smooths things over. Pento mirrors each song’s energy well with his rapping.
Compositionally, Pento takes things slowly, marinating deeply in each idea before moving to the next. His songs often defy conventional structures and just sort of go wherever happens to feel right in the moment. This is generally freeing and exciting as a listener. However, there are a couple of structure experiments towards the end of the album that fall flat, specifically in “Adam” and “Warriors.” “Warriors” gradually waters down into a K-pop R&B ballad and “Adam” lets it emotions take a hold of it and turns into a sentimental pop-rock extravaganza.
Experimentation is something I don’t think Korean hip-hop gets enough of. Although the Korean hip-hop scene is full of talent, there aren’t enough people pushing borders like Pento is doing here in this album. Pento abandons several hip-hop conventions and delves deeply into his imagination, returning with something that is gritty and immersive. This is not to say Adam doesn’t have its flaws, but its imagination and bravery makes it one of the most notable releases in Korean music as of late.