I first heard of SUMIN from her collaboration with george on the track “Take care (Prod. L-like),” which is a summery R&B track that showcased her cutting vocals. Without looking too much into what she did, I expected the rest of her work to be in this vein. Then I learned that she produced the frenetic interlude “SIDE C: UNKNOWN” for Chung Ha’s Querencia album and realized that there was a lot more to SUMIN besides being a smooth vocalist.
Her 2020 EP XX firmly cements that SUMIN is an artist and producer that can’t be simplified or contained. Within the mere span of four tracks, she takes us to different soundscapes and textures on a whim, each sharp turn proving that she can’t be described as just one sound.
“TURNON” starts with a simple enough concept, a thick bass and repeating the phrase “불켜 (turn on the light)” in a singsong manner. As the song progresses, more elements are slowly added into the sparse mix, creating an uneasy atmosphere, until the chant shifts to a melody. This continues until SUMIN sings “아름다운 춤 춰 (dance a beautiful dance)” and the track completely flips to something glittery and fluttery, in a major key.
Just as suddenly as the song flipped into brightness, the track reverts to the uneasy soundscape from literally 20 seconds ago. This sparse production remains until again the singer sings “춤추자” or literally “let’s dance,” which cues the beat to change to a new soundscape, an energetic dance rhythm set to the backdrop of lush synths.
뭐라할 뻔 했냐면 / SAYx3 ft. Dbo
The song charges at this dance rhythm straight into the second track, “SAYx3” which starts immediately with sharp synths on off beats. It feels somewhat demented, swinging like a pendulum as SUMIN’s melody threads between the beats. This feeling shifts without warning when the song changes to a faster tempo along with the additions of more rhythmic elements. The song is overall a cheeky thing, with lyrics that are childlike, like rapper Dbo rapping “I wanna catch you like Pikachu.”
SUMIN flexes her ability to pick out intriguing sounds in “Swim.” The track starts with sound textures that contrast well, creating a percussive space before the bouncing bass and hi-hats come in, setting the song to sound like something you’d hear in a slightly distorted club. The melody SUMIN uses is a mix of cheeky melody and spoken parts that dance over the beat. Additionally, she mixes Japanese into the mix, which adds an additional layer of sound textures to the track.
ZAZA / 사랑만들기 (to make love)
The final track of the EP is the most safe track she has. It uses warm synth sounds that are familiar in an 80’s track and features the most simple production of the EP. Considering that SUMIN found ways to be clever on the previous tracks, she still found ways to create a melody and bass line that moves more than a typical pop song. Her voice springs back and forth over the shimmery instrumental and the chorus has cheeky parts where she chants “let’s make some love!” which hints to the Korean title of the track which translates to “to make love.”
XX is an EP that feels like SUMIN is flexing everything that she can do. From “TURNON” which literally has three sharp turns within the song to the 80’s style synth song “ZAZA,” there’s a sense that SUMIN is having fun with her music and being cheeky because she can. SUMIN described herself as making a genre called “Neo-Kpop” and if this flashy, theatrical sound is what that means, I’m fully here for it and excited to see where she takes us next.