The growth of Korean artists adopting and evolving traditional instruments and elements into music is amazing. There are artists who are creating their own unique sounds and giving listeners a translated window in the past, present, and future. Haepaary are a duo making that exact style of music. Born by Gorgeousness is a trance-like electronic alt-pop experience.
The five songs are similar in the base style elements but go beyond that to showcase amazing control of tempo, sonic levels, and presentation. “Libation” is perfectly named. It sounds like a ceremony to a royal. The Namchang Gagok vocals mold the melody and the pulsing electronic tone in the background help push a flow to the song. Haepaary use a small mid-song break to reboot expectations. They add more electronic sounds on top of the vocals and slowly build tension as it purses the 3:35 song length.
“Born by Irreproachable Gorgeousness” is described as “reappropriating the original structure of Jongmyojeryeak” (Joseon royal shrine music). I don’t have any real reference to what the original Jongmyojeryeak style is, but it’s easy to tell that there are historic composition structures. The difference with this song is that the electronic elements are building a different perception and interpretation. “Born by Irreproachable Gorgeousness” is breaking down the original structure to create a new version for current times.
The most ambient of all of Haepaary’s songs on the EP, “Shining Sentences” starts with smaller moving tones on top of a dwelling airy audio line. It moves from left to right in the mix to create its own atmosphere and you’re caught in this movement. “Shining Sentences” reminds me a bit of stylistic ideas that Cacophony brings into her music. The last third of the song would be the best Korean cyberpunk soundtrack.
I really like that Haepaary are exploring their chosen soundscape fully. “A Shining Warrior – A Heartfelt Joy” might be the most mainstream electronic alternative pop song, but functions inside their showcase perfectly. It’s a bit of a calling card for the group outside of the main title track. If I was going to introduce Haepaary to someone, I might use this track first.
To close Born by Gorgeousness, “A Sendoff for Ancestor Spirits” haunts your ears. The sparse vocal-forward start dives into your soul and grasps your essence with both hands. When the instrumentals begin pulsing, you’re in their world. You are firmly within Haepaary’s grasp.
Haepaary are taking historic Korean music and changing the original narrative into something new and compelling. HYEWON and MINHEE work in unison to create an engaging and, honestly, tremendous first EP that changes the perception of Korean music, especially for casual listeners outside of South Korea. If this is the first extended release, the next release could redefine the path of Korean music expectations for international listeners.