I hadn’t heard much of Dey Kim before finding his latest solo full-length album Decoded & Interpreted while browsing Bandcamp trying to find new and exciting experimental music from Korea to listen to and possibly write about.
You see, Bandcamp, just like much else in the Internet, somewhat ignores the thriving and exciting world of Korean experimental music, making the finding of worthwhile new albums a bit more difficult than say newer Chinese and Japanese efforts. Yet, this makes the discovery of a worthy new artist a great experience. And that exactly is the case with Dey Kim’s Decoded & Interpreted.
The album presents us with five compositions performed on what seem like modular synthesizers and an array of other electronic instruments. According to the invaluable but somewhat hard to find press info of the album, some of the songs found here have been performed during different exhibitions from the past few years. The rest of the songs seem to be either created for the album or at least presented for the first time in it.
As we can see from the title of this full-length, Decoded & Interpreted seems very much to be the musical equivalent of concept art. What I mean by that is that a highly specific concept drives each of the songs here. In other words, the pieces here are pieces of conceptual art rather than a bunch of songs that sound nice together.
This makes a lot of sense since about half of the songs in the album started as exhibition pieces. Take for example the opening track “As I Am” which premiered at the S.O.M.E exhibition in Jeju Island. Starting with a single sound and always mutating and multiplying, it reaches a noise music-like cacophony of rhythm, noise, and voices until it fizzles out to a single sound towards the end. This kind of reminds me of my internal voice and understanding of myself which change as I grow and get subjected to new environments and people.
The piece even made me reminisce of my growth and teenage years and the role other people/voices had on my view of myself. Or rather, selves, as I had to play different, often overlapping and contradicting roles, in different situations. It is both conceptually and aurally incredibly interesting and worthy of deeper thought.
We witness similar things in all other pieces which are based on interesting ideas and manage to convey them in an exciting for the ears and mind ways. This precisely is one of the things that makes Decoded & Interpreted such a brilliant experience. It is both a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece of art all of the same time managing to be musically and production-wise super interesting and fresh. This is something rather difficult to manage, a bit like handling two watermelons under the same arm, as we say in Bulgaria. Still, Dey Kim does it splendidly in this full-length.
The second noteworthy quality of the album comes from the way Dey Kim approaches his material. Whereas other artists might choose to presents the rather serious themes of identity (“As I Am”), perception (“Noise Pop Noise”), and gender and stereotypes (“Nose Box”) in a grave and more-serious-than-thy manner, the Korean modular synth wizard does it in vastly different ways. A case in point is “Noise Box” which by the way is one of the best tracks in this already interesting album.
Consisting mainly of a high-pitched almost child’s voice reading widespread gender stereotypes (again, the press info is such a treasure), the song pokes fun of and shows the immaturity behind this, sadly, the prevalent type of thinking. Slowly, Dey Kim introduces super tense and slightly distorted electric pulses that work both as a contrast to the voices but also as a way to show their electric and nebulous origin.
In a way, these unpleasant ideas are both real and existing and kind of nebulous and non-existent. With time, the voice multiplies and becomes less and less discernible until it eventually becomes just a bunch of static noise in the emptied of meaning and therefore quiet, sea of pointless online opinions. It’s funny, yet riveting and thoughtful, much like many of the other pieces on this album. Decoded & Interpreted as an infinitely exciting and thought-provoking piece of art that has the potential for keeping busy all fans of Korean experimental music and art music in general for a long time.