Jeon Jin Hee is by no means a rookie, having played the piano and synths for bands like Ravie Nuage and Dear Cloud. While on the surface she might pass for a talented session member, Jeon Jin Hee has been more than the sounds of the instruments she plays – she empowers vocalists by writing songs and lyrics for them and knowing exactly when to come in for instrumental support and when to hold back. This attitude is embodied in her debut album Piano And Voice, in which she offers empathy by revealing more of her own sentiments but delivers them through varied voices.
This album speaks more by having less: voices with no technical frills, a piano, and the occasional bass guitar or cello are all there are, with much empty spaces in between. The vocals are all breathy, light, and intimate, making the album feel like an exclusive and personal concert.
“Breath,” “Sigh,” and “Anxiety” open up the track with late-night musings. The silence is as equally as powerful as each carefully articulated notes of the piano in the instrumental track “Breath,” while “Sigh” is an almost hymn-like soliloquy. The solemn tone continues into “Anxiety,” accentuating the power of empathy – while the composition and lyrics are sad, Nine’s vocals offer solace through empathy. The introduction of bass in the latter half of the song relieves some of the tension from the tension built up by the piano, as if, just like the vocals, to say that things will be okay.
“Where Are You” is a change of pace, Jeon Jin Hee finally taking center stage with her vocals. The piano arpeggios and chords come and go like waves, providing enough variability despite it being the only instrument in the track.
A clip of the audio from outside the studio during the recording process, “August” is an introduction to “Be Drunk” and gives the entire album a sense of space and intimacy. Kwak Jin-eon sings over the jazzy piano undertones carried over from the previous track. The metallic sounds of the acoustic guitar go surprisingly well with the piano, giving the track a folksy feeling.
“The Wall” is my personal favorite of the track, which brings us back to the initial late-night melancholy of the album. The tone feels darker and more resigned than the first few tracks, which in contrast seem to offer more comfort. Lee Young Hoon’s chorus amplifies the heartbreaking vocals of Ji Eon: a duet of overlapping soloists, two people who feel the same but cannot be together.
“The Lack” is an instrumental break to let the dramatic emotions from “The Wall” sink in, after which comes another musical dialogue, but this time between the voice and the piano. The emotions are less tacit in the vocals, though, making the song feel a little overly dramatic.
“Star” shifts the focus from the sadness to hope and gratitude to those in support, ending with an ode to friends in her own voice in “Regards.”
When session musicians take on voices of their own and make statements of independent musical identity, it adds depth and context to the music of the bands they are in. Jeon Jin Hee’s album signals that members of Ravie Nuage and Dear Cloud are individuals, that the music of these bands is a collective undertaking rather than any one person’s vision.