It’s time once again for Kpopalypse Nugu Alert! Let’s take a look at some more nugus!
A large focus of the Kpopalypse Nugu Alert series has always been the music videos, and not just for reasons of visual interest (as a post without any visual content would be kind of dull to write about). This focus on the visual in this series exists because it’s the differences in presentation between a limited-budget nugu artist and a more popular pop performer that in my view to a large extent defines the appeal of lesser-known productions. After all, an entertainment product like A-Force’s “Wonder Woman” just simply wouldn’t be as much cringeworthy fun if the music video for it was actually competently realised in any way, the entertainment value resides in the fact that visually the entire product doesn’t “fit”. However, due to this frequent highlighting on extreme “nugu visuals”, sometimes the focus on the music gets left behind, and since music is very important to me, this episode seeks to redress the balance towards what musically might be considered to define a nugu artist.
The most assured way to be nugu and to stay nugu in Korea’s hyper-commercial music landscape is to champion music which is experimental in nature and has little to do with commercial music of any kind. A little-known fact, before I was a Korean pop blogger and DJ, I hosted a completely different style of radio show on the same radio station, which ran with myself as the DJ for the 15 years between 1997 and 2012. I loved DJing the show, and doing so opened my ears to many new music currents, as well as brought me in touch with some interesting musicians and creative types. The show wasn’t initially my own (and part of the reason why I eventually left it and started the Korean pop show instead was to have a show that I could call my own) and it still exists to this day with another DJ at the helm, but the focus of this show was and still is “experimental music”. The idea of what constituted “experimental” and thus worthy of airplay on this show changed over the years with different DJs, but I personally chose to define the term as broadly as possible, so I could give listeners maximum variety, the common thread through it all being “as far away from commercial radio-friendly pop and rock music as it’s possible to get”. I would also make an effort to play extremely unknown artists as much as possible, alongside the bigger names in “experimental” music styles.
I didn’t play much Korean content back then because there simply isn’t much that exists over there in this genre that I was aware of at the time (and still isn’t). The closest I ever got was probably Jambinai, who, while excellent, are certainly on the “more normal” end of the spectrum of what could be considered “experimental”, plus they’re hardly nugus so they’re not really relevant to this post. This episode of Kpopalypse Nugu Alert is dedicated to Korean musicians on the “experimental” fringe, artists who were I still DJing that old show, their music and these videos would have fit right into my old playlists with little issue.
The usual Nugu Alert rules apply:
- Less than 20,000 views on official channels
- Basically unknown outside of Korea, international k-pop fans give no fucks
- Relevant to Kpopalypse
Oh and by the way – at the time of writing, none of these YouTube videos have any comments on them at all, so feel free to go your hardest and show them some love, and let them know that as far as Kpopalypse is concerned they are recipients of great honour by being featured here. Anyway, let’s take a look at the music videos!
Yoorae – 52-1
At the start of this video a woman holds a sheet of reflective material against her face and the number 52 appears. What happens after this point, both visually and musically, is best described as “open to interpretation”. Good luck even determining where the video intro ends and the song proper actually begins. Perhaps the whole thing is the song, or maybe none of it is. The collage of conflicting drum-machine rhythms and random electronic spasms is weird enough that it’s hard to not continually feel like you’re still witnessing the intro and something different is about to start at any minute, and this feeling is maintained throughout the entire running length, especially during a brief pause of complete silence at 4:35 where I was getting ready for a Gfriend beat to drop simply because I felt they had tried everything else by that point. The visuals are pretty hard to watch but are also quite well-matched to the chaotic nature of the music, and at the end of the video no real answers are gained other than that your life just became nearly seven minutes shorter.
YouTube views at the time of writing: 25
Notable attribute: guest appearance by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from 2:13, making his Kpopalypse review debut
Nugu Alert Rating: extreme
Jjangyou – It’s Alright
While much shorter in running length, Jjangyou somehow manages to be even more musically busy than Yoorae with less instruments. The most pop-friendly piece of music in this post, “It’s Alright” is still a texturally claustrophobic car-crash of R&B vocals and rapping, matched to haphazard frantic drumming, oddly melancholic bass chords and a weird keyboard scale pattern that never changes. The whole thing reminds me of some of the weirder stuff by Tricky but I’m not sure if that’s by design and I’d be honestly surprised if Jjangyou even knew who Tricky was. Is Jjangyou being experimental deliberately or is he just bad at music generally speaking and genuinely doesn’t comprehend that what he has created is in fact very fucking strange? This is a question I can’t answer, just like I can’t answer why he thinks it’s appropriate to smoke in the middle of the road and then not discard his cigarette ash responsibly, or why the background frame of some guy standing by a road bears an uncanny resemblance to the start of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” video.
YouTube views at the time of writing: 122
Notable attribute: video director has a bit of fun scribbling all over the border at 0:32, you’re never too old to play Qix folks
Nugu Alert Rating: extreme
Itta – Silk
Itta has actually been around for a while, not that I really know anything about her apart from some reviews on Korean Indie and her Bandcamp. A person with a long creative career, Itta has videos on her YouTube channel dating back ten years and if you like the sound of “Silk” you could check some of them out, most of which are even weirder than what is here. Itta’s songs are mostly created with a combination of her singing and the use of a harmonium (a pump-operated organ) in a style similar to the later solo work from The Velvet Underground’s Nico, but then she has other tracks where she also does more electronic music including a lot of stuff with partner-in-crime Marqido which appears to be just as strange. The only thing not strange here is the visuals which take the song title about as literally and plainly as they possibly can, the only thing that’s missing is some silky bottles of water-based lube.
YouTube views at the time of writing: 579
Notable attribute: horse statue at 2:37 hopefully meets required standards for the horse statue fans among my readership, you’re welcome
Nugu Alert Rating: extreme
That’s all for this episode of Kpopalypse Nugu Alert! Hopefully you enjoyed this post and Kpopalypse will return with more nugus at a future date!