Contrary to what the name may suggest, Variantia’s normal crush is anything but predictable. However, this is purposeful — the EP, according to their Bandcamp, is meant to be a bit tongue in cheek, playing with the idea of what “normal” truly is; and, if everyone has something special about them, wouldn’t being “normal” or “mediocre” then be special?
The alternative electro-indie-pop trio, based in Seoul, refuse to be placed in a box, and the tracks on “normal crush” reflect that. Each one is artfully crafted, showing off their unique and eclectic style.
“what the hell” starts with a rapid, repetitive series of notes on a keyboard accompanied by snare, throwing you immediately into the deep end of the soundscape. Combining obviously digital elements with more ambiguous and traditional elements, they create a complexly layered instrumental which stops short for a moment, allowing the vocals to shine, before abruptly launching into more glittery electro-pop.
In fact, just about every 30 seconds the instrumentals shift into a new arrangement, but the reuse of certain instruments and sounds keeps it cohesive overall. The track takes a number of unexpected turns in its relatively short runtime (2:27), incorporating a number of sounds – some of which aren’t inherently musical, such as dogs barking – into an energetic opener that prepares you for the rest of the songs to come.
“normal losers” begins with heavily manipulated audio before launching into a call-and-response between a synth keyboard and a more traditional piano. Although this track is paced more slowly, it still maintains the complexity of the first track. “normal losers” brings in sounds reminiscent of an old-school video game, many of which give the song a space-like atmosphere.
The vocalist sings with an almost robotic precision at times, lending to the oddly mechanical instrumental; at other times, her voice swells as the number of elements backing her increases, not allowing them to drown her out.
With this track, Variantia establishes a trend, paradoxically, of switching things up. Their songs refuse to let you settle, although they never drag you completely out of the soundscape – even when things change, there’s enough consistency between the shifts in instrumentation that you aren’t interrupted from your listening experience.
The third and longest track is “shower me,” which gives the vocals more emphasis than the instrumentation. Although more simplistic, the sounds chosen reflect the title and lyrics well, reminiscent of water dripping and splashing. The same lyrics bookend the track, and it ends as gently as it began. Despite the repetitive lyrical elements, the group still changes up the soundscape, allowing it to grow the longer the song goes on until it gets to its conclusion.
“hide and seek” is the EP’s final track and closes it out on a completely opposite note from the way it began. This track blends the elements of a ballad – haunting vocals and an accompanying piano and strings – with more subversive, unexpected electronic elements which hollow out the space, bringing a lot of reverb into the picture.
Just when the track seems to fill itself out, they empty once more and bring in new elements, not allowing anything to become even slightly stale. Despite having lyrics that may be commonly expected in a love song, the track as a whole is anything but predictable.
Overall, normal crush is surprisingly cohesive, continuing Variantia’s trend of defying expectations. The trio are obviously in tune with one another, and it shows in the complex but careful construction of each song. Impressively, the group takes listeners on a genre-defying journey in under 15 minutes, showing off the different facets of their musical abilities while still maintaining a structure and theme. As the group continues to become more active on their social media platforms and with their music-making, I definitely recommend you keep an eye on them.