imugi 이무기 has established itself as a popular electronic-hip-hop act in the past years in New Zealand, releasing at the end of this fateful year one of the most anticipated EPs, all the way from Auckland. With singer Yeri Cho and synth-player Carl Ruwhiu, the duo released Dragonfruit, following their acclaimed debut mini-album Vacasian in 2017.
Truthfully, electronic music is only one of many labels that can be put on imugi. As Dragonfruit proves it, the pair absolutely refuses to confine their music into a single box and instead embraces a myriad of styles to create their art.
“Portals,” the first song of the seven-track EP, introduces us to what makes imugi work: at times poetic, eccentric, but always honest lyrics and superb production. “I feel immortal I’m walking through portals / My soul is enormous and I can’t afford it.”
imugi shines in particular with the hazy “Greensmoke,” in which a jaded Yeri Cho questions her relationship and seems to control the beat like a simple smoke ring with her drawling vocals. It’s almost too easy to picture her, eyes half-closed as she sings, “Was your love for free / Is this really me / Is this really love or are you draining me?”
On the other hand, “Somebody Else” addresses her wish to become “a man with a job and a wealthy mouth” and ultimately ends with a more existentialist statement, wondering which path is the right one in life. All of this wrapped in a psychedelic beat and farfetched lyrics that I personally enjoy. What can I say, if someone writes, “Glimmer on the screen die out like an asteroid / Cold at the core fuck Freud spend your cash more,” I’m just bound to be interested!
The only collaboration of the EP is “y u always acting like a fool?” ft. Church & AP, a rising New Zealand rap duo. Together, they offer different points of view of a couple realizing how terrible their relationship actually is, admitting easily that it’s time to give up. With the repetitive chorus, “Ok I get it / You’re right, you’re winning / It’s fine, forgiven / Goodbye, goodbye,” the song has a youthful quality to it that is hard to dislike.
The strongest track in my opinion is the stellar “Be Here Soon”, with its undoubtedly party anthem potential. It’s not solely the mix of sweet pop vocals that makes it work, but the break that manages to avoid the beat being too repetitive. “Be Here Soon” is so strikingly different from any of the other tracks that it’s thanks to its existence that we truly realize the range of imugi.
Both “Wandering Recluse” and “Reflections” rely on spoken words, turning their peculiar lyrics into actual poetry. The latter is completely devoid of singing and instead lets the psychedelic beat take control of the song whereas the words are almost hard to hear. “As your head begins to clear / Come face to face with what you fear / And watch as it / Evaporates. / Disperse into the atmosphere.”
Dragonfruit excels in blending R&B, hip-hop with trippy beats, and enough synth to make us just close our eyes and imagine a lazy summer day. imugi’s versatility and lyricism are impressive without trying too hard. Even with their most phantasmagoric lyrics, it’s impossible to not be charmed by the honesty that radiates from them.