From the very beginning, Thornapple have possessed a distinct, folk-tinged spirit that combines elements of East Asian traditional music, 90s alternative rock and deeply introspective lyrics into a sonic tapestry that is at once coherent and constantly varying. I consider Thornapple’s previous release, 이상기후, to be one of my most treasured albums; within my library, it is unmatched in its ability to conjure bewitching soundscapes, carried by Yoon Sung-hyun’s soulful vocals and his knack for infectious, yet intricate harmonies.
Thornapple’s 3rd release, Seoul Sickness, is a 28-minute EP that showcases their ability to manipulate song structure and atmosphere; it also wears its traditional influence on its sleeve, even more so than Thornapple’s previous releases do. The tempo and rhythm of each song is masterfully orchestrated in a such a way that they seem to thread together as five parts of a journey. “한낮,” the concise opening track, kicks off the album at an energetic pace; its liveliness immediately draws me in. “석류의 맛,” an 8-minute epic, possesses three prominent motifs and one of the most blatantly Asian folk-like passages that I have heard from modern music in a long time (and I also confess to finding this part extremely catchy).
The more pensive “어려운 달,” written in triple time, dances restlessly as Yoon Sung-hyun recounts a tale of two troubled lovers, and segues into the sombre, acoustic “장마전선.” The bittersweet album finale, “서울,” begins as a poignant lament, unexpectedly punctured by pentatonic sequences. At its height, it explodes into a powerful catharsis that concludes the musical sojourn.
Not a second is wasted on Seoul Sickness. It is the result of a band completely in tune with all aspects of its identity. With this release, Thornapple continue to assert themselves as a mainstay of the Korean rock scene.