I didn’t know who Lucy Liyou was before receiving an email about them, but after listening to “Unnie” and previewing Welfare / Practice, I have an idea of the type of music they create. It thrives in an experimental world that requires patience for comprehension. And it will speak or push away the audience, depending on what you want. The reissue will release on May 20, 2022 and you can preorder it on Bandcamp.

Regardless, it’s an impressive set of songs and worth exploring. Check out the video for “Unnie” and read the official press release below.

Philadelphia-based experimental pop artist Lucy Liyou (they/them) today announced Welfare / Practice, a double-disc reissue of their first two full-length albums, will be released via Chicago’s American Dreams Records on May 20th, 2022. This is the first time that the acclaimed Korean-American experimental pop artist’s albums (2020’s Welfare and 2021’s Practice) will be pressed on CD/LP. Stream and preorder Welfare / Practice here.

Alongside the announcement, Lucy Liyou presented a new, self-directed music video for their intimate song about gender identity and familial connection, “Unnie”. Featuring American propaganda footage of the Korean War accompanied by close-up footage of the artist and overlaid text, Liyou issued the following statement connecting the song’s themes with the images:

“In between prayers, my grandma would tell me about her life. How war, the Korean War, left her with more than memories. She would point to my chest and tell me that me, my body, was the will of God. Sacred skin. And I carried those words with me: the idea that this is where the miracle lies. Each crevice, crater, birthmark, and moon created from impact and unflinching will. So when this body stopped feeling like home, I wondered if I was betraying this feat, this existence. If I was betraying her.

“But I’m realizing that the miracle lies elsewhere. Maybe in her word and mine. A history and imagination that cannot be fully captured in the flesh. Where “I remember” becomes “I believe.” Where “I trust you” becomes “I promise.” Here. Every syllable sounds like a person. Passed and becoming. Grandma, Me, and then…and then.”

Lucy Liyou synthesizes field recordings, text-to-speech readings, poetry, and elements from Korean folk opera into sonic narratives that explore the implications of Orientalism and Westernization. Though their music reflects the work of genres such as post-industrial and musique-concrète, Lucy Liyou is greatly influenced by audiobooks as well as music from the Impressionist period and Neoclassical period.

Lucy Liyou’s debut project, A Hope I Had, was a sonic examination of hereditary depression in Asian families, which caught the attention of South London based artist Klein. Liyou followed up the release with their debut full-length, Welfare (released in March 2020 through Klein’s label ijn inc), an ambitious analysis of the colonialist concept of self-care. Less than a year later Lucy Liyou released the acclaimed follow-up, Practice, which drew deeply on aesthetic touchstones from Liyou’s Korean heritage to examine how families explicitly and implicitly pass on coping mechanisms – or lack thereof – for grief and loss passed through generations.

Liyou has since shared a steady output of works including for N., how to ask for help, and most recently the collaborative releases Arrangements (with CC Sorrenson) and A Need / A Want (with YSKA). Liyou’s work has earned acclaim from Bandcamp Daily, The Quietus, them., Tone Glow, Wire Magazine, NPR Music among others, and received notable airplay on NTS Radio, KEXP, NPR, and Sonos Radio’s Radio Hour with Thom Yorke. 

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Korean Indie owner and Editor at Large. Constantly looking for new music and working on library parity on Spotify and YouTube Music.