Other Countries They Are Having More Than Coffee...
By Nick Sylvester/GODMODE
Yaeji is Kathy Yaeji Lee, a 23-year-old producer who splits time between Seoul and New York but can't call either home. She was born in Queens, but her Korean immigrant parents fretted over her becoming too Americanized. They relocated to Atlanta briefly, then back to South Korea, then Yaeji came back to New York. Memory is fuzzy, and with that a sense of belonging. Yaeji sings about that in "New York 93", her first official release. Home is neither here nor there but somewhere inside of her.
Yaeji sings in a hushed whisper, as if only to herself. It's barely pitched, gently whistling, sliding between English and Korean words in the same verse. You're so close, right there with her – then so far away again. For Yaeji, songs are private moments in public spaces. A friend told me "Feel It Out" reminded her of the first time she went to a dance club – that mix of fear and excitement, the bright flickers of recognition in the deep dark unfamiliar. This is the pep talk we give ourselves. Open up in a new way. Open up on a Monday.
Yaeji's Yaeji EP, out 31 March 2017 (Godmode), is dance music in cadence and spirit. Even when the tempo shifts down, you don't listen to these songs so much as live through them. In "Noonside," repetition is deployed to hypnotic, time-freezing effect. There's no setup, no punchline. Everything seems to change except the thing right in front of you. Has there been a more beautiful song about waiting in line at border patrol?
She's also a bit of a goofball – an ardent supporter of Gudetama, the kind of person who sees faces in fire hydrants and laughs when a building looks like it's tipping its hat. It takes a certain kind of human being to rhyme "Shit is crazy" with "Shit is Yaeji." Reminds me of Kanye saying "I miss the old Kanye," but I'll keep that to myself. What I'll say is I can't think of a new artist as fearless as Yaeji – so unabashedly all of herself.
Yaeji joined the Godmode crew in the beginning of 2016. "New York 93" and "Guap" came out to mammoth support from Pitchfork, NPR, RBMA, Dummy, and Spotify. As a DJ, she's had a year of regular appearances at Bossa Nova Civic Club, China Chalet, The Lot, and Discwoman parties. She's also an accomplished visual artist; Oberlin College is hosting a show of her new works this coming March.
Yaeji's Yaeji EP is available digitally worldwide on 31 March 2017. Limited edition physical product designed by Yaeji herself will be available around then too. Release info below…
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out: 31 March 2017
02 New York 93
03 Feel It Out
05 Full of It
Vocals by Kathy Yaeji Lee
Synthesizers and drum machines by Kathy Yaeji Lee, Nick Sylvester
Produced by Nick Sylvester
Assistant produced by Robert Szmurlo
Mastered by Sarah Register
Recorded at Faculty, Brooklyn, NY
Mixed at 10K Islands, Los Angeles, CA
Intellijel Atlantis, Intellijel Metropolis, Intellijel Rainmaker, MFB Tänzbar, Dave Smith Tempest, Sequential Circuits Prophet VS, Korg Minilogue, Korg microkorg, Moog Sub37, Noise Engineering Zularic Repetitor, Make Noise Phonogene, Make Noise Echophon, Make Noise Erbeverb, Hexinverter Mutant Kick, Hexinverter Mutant Hi-Hat.