Kim Sarang is an odd figure in Korean indie music. His music floats somewhere in between the public and indie sphere, overlooked by the majority in both but loved by others. His albums span from rap metal to electronica, and are known for having only one name on the credits section: Kim Sarang playing all of the instruments, writing and producing every track. Beyond the marvel of such feats lies the satisfaction of knowing that Kim Sarang’s albums consist solely of his persona and nobody else’s. U-Turn has an acoustic focus, in which Kim Sarang sought to return to the basics of his songwriting; the acoustic guitar is featured heavily in the album.
The first track “U-Turn” takes the meaning of the word literally: it uses backward masking, playing a track in reverse. The psychedelic outcome also defines the vibes of the album as a whole, emphasizing the levels of intensity and strength that come and go like waves.
“It’s Okay” brings in the same guitar tones from the previous track into a straightforward development, execution, and delivery. As many instruments as Kim Sarang can play, he goes for a no-frills approach. The interplay of energy between the vocals and instrumentals is interesting – Kim Sarang seems to know exactly how much power he wants to deliver in this track.
The vocal effector in the intro of “Hysteria” is a stark contrast with the rest of the song, one of the most energetic in the album. The waltz beat of triplets is given a metal twist, the guitars hitting the ears like waves in a storm while the drums slice up the beat. The impact of the toms is doubled by the bass guitar, on top of which the vocals rage in hysteria.
The triplet rhythm continues onto “Consolation,” the title track of the album. It generates a more melodic and sentimental soundscape, almost reminiscent of British rock in the way it masterfully stacks the different guitar tones.
The modern rock sound goes a more contemporary route in “A Day in My Life,” heavily molding the soundscape with various guitar effectors. The result is something that sounds remarkably similar to the music of Monni, a band in its initial years around the time this album came out.
“Second Place,” an experimental track, feels almost like an interlude. Panning of the guitars is used to the maximum, not to mention the vocal effectors and beat samples. Sinawe’s 7th album Psychedelos exemplifies the kind of vibes in this track. The chord progressions shifting in and out of minors and majors adds to the dreamy atmosphere.
“Yellow Planet” takes on the same experimental direction, interspersing moments of fluid psychedelic sounds with explosions spearheaded by the vocals. The instruments later take on lives of their own to continue the storm even in the absence of vocals before the bridge.
Another interlude, “Mad AI” seems to have come from the world created by Seo Tai Ji’s “T’ik T’ak,” painting a picture of this scene only to crumple it up with all of its other sounds.
Darkness seeps out from “Mud Candy,” sounding similar to glam rock bands like Wiretap In My Ear but the lyrics being much darker. The sudden stops before resuming with full energy is something he has been doing throughout this album, but perhaps is most pronounced in this track.
The emo is succeeded by the careful intimacy of final track, “Rainy Day.” Each breath is intentionally left in the mix, the acoustic guitar strumming along triplet rhythms as the main element of the track.
The boy who could literally single-handedly create entire rock albums while dropping out of high school was of course likened to Seo Tai Ji. Despite not being as prolific, Kim Sarang, pushing 40, can look back at this album and feel proud that he was able to develop his own musical persona in spite of the clamor around him.