- Awe-inspiring club music that incorporates a Korean folk dance tradition.
- This new EP from bela on the ever-intriguing Montreal label Éditions Appærent is based around a type of Korean music and dance known as nongak (or pungmul), a folk tradition that can sometimes take on political overtones. The music is made from a number of percussive instruments native to Korea, and features dancers in constant motion moving through plenty of tempo changes. On Guidelines, bela negotiates with nongak without exactly replicating or propagating it. Instead, they use its fundamental ideas to make futuristic club music that sounds unmoored from most modern ideas of dance music, fusing tradition with the brand new.
The most exciting part of Guidelines is how the speed of the tracks fluctuates so much. Take "Dongsalpuri," the most approachable tune, which starts out as an amiable shuffle before speeding up into a frantic cyclone, then slowing down even more. Or how the groaning bassline on "Variation I," another major highlight, feels like it's moving at turtle-pace compared to everything else. It seems narrow-minded to imagine these tracks as made for the dance floor, but make no mistake: they would wreak havoc on dancers in the best way.
bela uses these ideas in concert with modern dance music styles. The way "Bangilgunak/Byeoldalgeori" thrashes faster and faster has something in common with modern and creative strains of gabber. The staggered cadence of "Chilchae" imitates the swing and thrust of early grime, replacing that genre's low-end square wave squalls with high-pitched screeches.
The sounds bela uses are divorced from both reality and genre orthodoxy. "Chilchae" hints at grime, sure, but the sounds themselves are harsh and resonant, like something you'd hear in a sound art exhibition. So much of dance music, especially in this realm of bigger, weirder, louder club music, can feel like an arms war—who can make the strangest, most core-shaking sound? But in navigating this unusual source of inspiration, bela sidesteps everyone else to come up with a style that feels uniquely personal, even if it is rooted in another tradition of music-making and performance. In its mix of cultural influences, time periods and cutting-edge sounds, Guidelines' title actually makes sense: this is how people should be making "experimental club music" now.
01. 점고 Jeomgo
02. 칠채 Chilchae
03. 반길군악/별달거리 Bangilgunak/Byeoldalgeori
04. 변주 1 Variation 1
05. 동살풀이 Dongsalpuri
06. 변주 2 Variation 2
07. 짝쇠 Jjaksoe