Monday, October 17, 2022 by DJ Uncertain #music

Sleepnot, the rice cake in the window

Sleepnot/Bugpress has the best collection of Korean classic rock, punk, post-punk, and K-indie I have found on the web. His YT Channel catagorizes music by artists, albums, subgenres, and time periods (a playlist called 2006-2010 hits the hardest for me) and while there are some obvious classics, this is a mine where few stones are left unturned in what seems like decades of digging. The highlight in his MPR segment is a bigger and much heavier version of Kim Soo Ja's It's Gone, released in 2014, 45 years after the 1969 original. Where she was once spaced out and exploratory she's now stern and throaty with even more power and spit in her belt. But what to make of her change in tone? The cynical story you hear all too often of Korean music during those 45 years is one of hyperspeed modernization and neo-liberal restructuring. The short version goes that there was traditional folk music and then, suddenly, in the 80s and 90s, three companies, SM, JYP, and YG, cornered the entirety of a nation's musical output at the behest of a centralized economic policy (Hallyu) that forsaw the value of youth culture as an export. While that's a neat explanation for monocultural effeciency, nationlistic tendancies, and the memetic nature of K-pop, Sleepnot's archive tells a far more compelling story of counter-cultural youth with all their aspirations and failures worn on striped sleaves. Somewhere in the thousands of tracks Sleepnot has uploaded, the post-war reconstruction psychedelia of Kim Soo Ja, and her producer, the godfather of Korean rock, Shin Joong Hyun, give way to a tumultous period of student protests in the 80s where, in some cases, pro-democracy movements were anti-modernization when synonymous with "American", and aesthetically against what the Park Chung-Hee regime called "healthy popular music". But then it's just down the road to the glocalized 90's hip-hop and K-indie scenes of Itaewon and the coolest college town on earth, Hongdae-- neighborhoods whose bohemian promises are made in Crying Nut videos or No Brain's Chosun Park and broken in JY Park's gentrification banger Itaewon Freedom, (The ultimate layer of irony being that this the guy who went on to start JYP, one of the big 3 K-pop production campanies). The question of assimilation never sits still either. You can't help to feel sorry for the sound of Korean kids yearning for American suburbs only to realize suburban nastolgia and yearning for something gone or out of reach is the bread and butter of any American 4th wave punk-- but the K-indie kid does it better inspite of and probably because of the distance. In plenty of cases, I'm sure some of these bands could care less about America, and with the remove of any succesive genre, korean alternative kids are just after a sound someone heard on their big sister's stereo. In that 45 years since the original 1969 version of It's Gone plenty has changed sonically and politically for rock music, but its more useful to believe nothing is settled in that deep desire for difference-- if anything, with all the top-down produced k-pop and now k-indie that draws upon rock, "difference" is all the more distorted, tantilizing, and frustrating, in that undying reach for it. 



1. Mamason - Subway Toilet 2. The Monotones - The Beat Goes On 3. 김추자(Kim Choo-ja) - 가버린 사람아(You're Gone) 4. Huckleberry Finn - 낯선 두 형제(Two Strange Brothers) 5. 정차식 - 파이팅 맨(Fighting Man) 6. Dabang - Taxi Blues 7. 나팔꽃(Morning Glory) - 누워서 부르스(Lying Down Blues) feat. 김해원(Kim Hae-won) 8. 황보령=Smacksoft - 비상(Soar) 9. 곱창전골(Kopchangjeongol) - 그대 모습(Your Look) (Baby, Come Back) 10. 상자루(Sangjaru) - 3인 놀이(3 Player Game) 11. 청바지(Blue Jean) - 단풍(Maple) 12. Ann - Burn 13. 모노반(Monovan) - 행진가(Marching Song) (March) 14. Telepathy - Tonight 15. Deadbuttons - Fuckers are Everywhere 16. 어어부 프로젝트(Uhuhboo Project) - 종점 보관소(Terminal Depository) 17. 달파란(Dalpalan) - 만주의 매(Hawk of Manchuria) 18. The Highlights - Mr. Tambourine