The latest discovery in my ever-expanding search for genre-defying Korean artists is singer, songwriter, and bassist Ejae. Not to be confused with the US-based K-pop producer of the same name, this Ejae is somewhat elusive, with a slim discography consisting of two EP-length projects and a handful of singles.
We’ve already reviewed her 2021 release Now Trash: a quirky, high-energy pop-punk project that, despite occasionally venturing into other musical territory with its synthy production and oblique arrangements, stayed firmly rooted in indie-rock soil.
Her latest EP, 이재이집 2jae2jip, however, deals in a stranger realm. The indie-rock sensibilities remain somewhat intact on this project; however, these six tracks are more raw, more minimal, and often straight-up weirder than their predecessors on Now Trash. Ejae serenades us and hexes us in equal measure on a project that truly eludes category.
The opener “Story” is innocuous enough as a point of entry: Ejae gives us driving bass and drums and a catchy guitar riff on an instrumental that sounds like it could be off of a Sanullim track. Although everything is decidedly lo-fi and Ejae’s vocals sound as if they’re pretty much unprocessed (which was a welcome and refreshing departure from a lot of things I hear), this track is a fairly straightforward indie-rock song.
The second track proceeds to throw us into the deep end. More an experimental noise piece than anything else, “Tao” is a short journey through a minimal soundscape consisting of a constant, low whistle, pitched-down laugh samples, and crackly percussion that together create the effect of some kind of quirky sonic ritual.
“Postbox” pairs an entirely synth-based instrumental with the return of Ejae’s chant-like vocals, keeping us in a psychedelic and mystical space. “Churchi” brings back to slightly more familiar territory, with reverb-soaked drums backing an acoustic guitar, electric bass, and voices in a song that’s performed loosely and casually, and sounds like it very well could have been recorded from the stage of a Korean church, save for the cascades of metallic percussion that occur from time to time throughout.
“Beauty Dub” is my favorite of the bunch, a slightly twisted dream pop joint that sacrifices none of the EP’s deliciously weird sound design for its simple chord progression and vocal melody, and perfectly, hilariously melancholy recorder sample. This track and “Postbox” are paired with appropriately DIY music videos on Ejae’s YouTube channel— these only add to the trippy ambiance.
“RockRock” pulls the rug out from under us yet again by staying true to its name, as Ejae delivers distorted whisper vocals over a fuzzed-out bass and drums in the highest-energy song of the bunch, concluding a confounding but rewarding musical journey.
Though this EP is eclectic in its references, its song structure, and its instrumental textures, there are still a lot of things about these tracks that unify them and make them stronger as a package.
Ejae’s sincerely quirky artistic voice continues to intrigue— operating in the cracks of what we call genre and building something that is unmistakably her own. If you’re looking for beautiful, strange, music that dances on the edges of pop and rock and sparkles with its own character, this EP is for you.