I’ve been a fan of Ashmute ever since “Summer’s Gone” dropped into my YouTube recommendations. Rang’s voice immediately stuck with me, and I won’t hesitate to say that Ashmute is one of the artists that really launched me more fully into the Korean indie scene.
“비가 Nocturne” is quintessential Ashmute. A solitary piano is paired with Rang’s vocals, both having a slight reverb. There’s a loneliness to a lot of Ashmute’s songs, a feeling that the band is somehow performing in a room all by themselves, with you as the only audience. Eventually, the piano is joined by what I think are synthetic strings, and it enhances that sort of gothic gloom they have throughout their discography.
The following track, “Subway,” again begins with Rang and a piano, but is soon joined by a high-hat and then a full drum set. This song has less reverb, and instead we get a delightful layering of Rang’s voice where she harmonizes with herself.
In the slower, less instrumental parts of the song, we even get some ad-libs which then carry through to the rest of the song. An electric guitar makes an appearance and overall the song is a little more fast-paced than the majority of Ashmute’s previous discography. It’s an exciting, but somewhat minimal, change in their style.
Then, we take another little turn in the third song. “Blue” is sad synth. Heavy right from the outset with an almost dragging quality throughout. The synth is deliberately slow, Rang drags out her notes, even the drumbeat is comparatively slow in many parts of the song. Although it does amp up, it allows traces of that slowness to linger in Rang’s ad-libs and backing vocals until it returns again in the chorus.
One of the words I would use to describe Ashmute’s music is “haunting,” and this song certainly fits the bill. Then we get to “To.,” which was released as a single prior to this EP, and actually made it on my personal Top 10 of 2019 list. The piano almost mimics rain, and when paired with Rang’s clear voice and the high synthetic strings, it swells like waves and crashes with emotion.
It’s also a song where we get an extended opportunity to hear Rang’s lower register, which feeds into the heaviness of the song overall. The piano really carries the song, whereas in many cases I find that Rang herself tends to lead the melody.
“Following the Cat” is a short, instrumental track. It’s atmospheric, playing around with synth and newer sounds while still incorporating that classic Ashmute piano with its reverb. But it’s after this track that we take a sharp turn, and suddenly are delivered a song which is entirely different from anything else Ashmute has released recently.
“In My Heart” is one of their only songs where Rang isn’t singing alone; from what I can tell, she’s joined by one of the producers, Oov (who I was shocked to find out is younger than I am). The song is a slight departure from Ashmute’s usual sound, going for a more raw, acoustic sound in terms of instrumentals. It reminds me of those pop punk/alternative demo versions of songs I always loved to listen to in high school — you know, the kind where you feel like you’re getting insight into their creative process, sitting in the studio with them. It’s sung entirely in English, and starts with Oov which was a huge surprise at first listen.
Though Oov and Rang each get solos, it’s wonderful to hear them harmonizing. I’m hoping Oov’s vocals will feature in more of their songs in the future. And finally, we wrap up with “D-Day.” It pairs their usual piano with semi-mechanical clicks and shimmering cymbals. They seem to be playing around with incorporating more non-musical sound elements in this track, as well as going for a vintage appeal in the sound filters.
For the most part, Night & Night is a continuation of everything I love about Ashmute. The haunting vocals and melodies, the sad but hopeful lyrics, just with an added maturity that comes with passing time. But the latter parts of the EP show confidence and a desire within Ashmute to expand in terms of genre as well as perhaps utilizing another vocalist to complement Rang. The EP gives us just a glimpse at what Ashmute has to offer in the future, and I can confidently say that I’m excited.