yaeji returns with the sublime ‘One More’
No one quite had a year like New York-via-Seoul producer KATHY LEE, otherwise known as YAEJI, did last year. Her twin self-titled EPs, released at the bookends of 2017, not only established her richly textured and emotional aesthetic but saw her emerge as one of dance music’s most diverse and exciting new voices. The breakthrough moment came with the inimitable, Detroit-house leaning ‘raingurl’ off her EP2, bringing the producer her closest taste of mainstream crossover success yet, and rightfully so. But, at the same time, I would argue ‘raingurl’ looks like something of an outlier in the full context of her brief but impressive discography. For as excellent a track as it is, it also isn’t necessarily indicative of yaeji as an artist and as a project. The direction her career and her artistry was going to head in post-‘raingurl’ was therefore always going to be an interesting story to watch.
On ‘One More’, her first solo track of 2018, yaeji sets about answering some of those questions. Immediately, ‘One More’ primes us to reset our expectations, taking a while to warm up from a rising choir of stacked harmonies, shy hi-hats and yaeji’s filtered, autotuned Korean singing, signalling that this is closer to the hazy, insular dance music of ‘passionfruit’ than the more immediate house-trap of ‘drink i’m sippin’ on’. It’s clear too that yaeji doesn’t want to compromise on the vulnerable emotional texturing of her music; of the track, she says that “‘One More’ is about enduring and coming to terms with pain until you have the strength to forgive and move on.” As always, she flits fluidly between Korean and English to a borderless, ephemeral effect, but you can catch shy, sideways glimpses of this hurt during one of the track’s fractured English passages: “So apologies are made for fun? / So I can fall and hurt and learn but you don’t need to change a thing? / That’s how it is”.
yaeji spends the rest of ‘One More’ deftly fluctuating between hypnotic, minimal introspection and a sly, slinky bop of a beat that sneaks into the track alongside stabs of her familiar pillowy, hollowed-out synths. It’s simultaneously thumping but airy, as if the beat itself were whispering to you in the middle of the dancefloor. It’s almost as if she’s reminding you of everything she can do within the one track. Just in case you forgot, she’s still the producer who wrote ‘raingurl’.
If yaeji set out to define her career beyond her breakout success of last year with this latest track, then she’s done so to stunning effect. ‘One More’ is sublime, subtle, texturally rich and emotionally honest house-pop. It’s dance music at it’s best. And it feels entirely yaeji. It might not exactly be another ‘raingurl’, but that’s not exactly a bad thing, either.
IMAGE: Michaiah Carter