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[Review] Leessang-AsuRa BalBalTa

26 Aug

LEESSANG IS BACK!!

I couldn’t possibly be more excited! Leessang is one of those groups that I love to listen to, but sadly, they haven’t promoted any music for the past couple years.  Now on their seventh album, Leesang has been dominating charts with Asura Balbalta.

For those who do not know much about Leessang: Leessang is a duo that debut in 2002 as a branch off from the group Honey Family. Consisting of singer Gil and rapper Gary, the two pioneered much of what can be heard in Korean rap today. Prior to the release of Asura Balbalta, the duo release six other albums:

Leessang of Honey Family (2002)

Re: Development [재, 계발] (2003)

Library of Soul (2005)

Black Sun (2007)

Baek-Ah Cuts the Strings [伯牙絶絃(백아절현)] (2009)

Hexagonal (2009)

Check out their official homepage here and their YouTube channel here.

Tracklist

*there is some descrpency about the translation of the song titles so I’m just oging to use this tracklist that I found online*

1.       You Are The Answer To A Guy Like Me (Prologue)

2.       You Are The Answer To A Guy Like Me (Feat.Harim)

3.       Turned Off the TV (Feat.Tasha And Kwon Jungyeol OF 10cm)

4.       Serenade (Feat.Gaeko Of Dynamic Duo, Windy City)

5.       Memories (Feat.Baek Ji Young) Leessang

6.       I Will Give My Everything To You (Feat.Jung In)

7.       Bird To Fly Before Dying (To.Bizzy) (Feat.Kangsanae And Bizzy)

8.       Asura Balbalta

9.       Wild Goose Chase (Feat.Guckkasten)

10.   Gangnam Riche (Feat.Pobi)

11.   Am I? (Feat.Bizzy And B-Free)

12.   Hope

13.   Grand Final (Planet Shiver Mix)

1.       You Are The Answer To A Guy Like Me ( Prologue)

At first, I thought I was listening to a Yiruma composition. This 34-second piano solo is a beautiful piece that highlights the melody of the second track.

 

2.       You Are The Answer To A Guy Like Me (Feat.Harim)

This is a pretty slow-paced track that is as close as Leessang gets to a ballad. The melody is pretty and I found that Gary rapped a lot more passionately than before. His style normally has a laidback vibe, but in this track, he seemed more emotional. You Are The Answer To A Guy Like Me features the veteran singer Harim. I didn’t know who he was until I Googled him. Though his voice isn’t really showcased in this track, check out one of his live performances here

3.   Turned Off the TV (Feat.Tasha And Kwon Jungyeol OF 10cm)

Though I have listened to a lot of Leessang’s songs, I have never heard them produce a track as mellow as “Turned Off the TV”. Featuring Yoon Mi Rae (one of my favorite artists EVER) and 10cm’s Kwon Jung Yeol, Turned Off the TV is one my favorite tracks on the album. I have always loved the huskiness of Gil’s voice, and in this song, his voice contrasting with Kwon Jung Yeol’s softer tone highlights both of their strengths. Check out the awesomely creative MV above.

 

4.       Serenade (Feat.Gaeko Of Dynamic Duo, Windy City)

I loved how smooth and chill this song was. The vocals (though I’m not exactly sure who’s they were at each point) were gorgeous.  I didn’t necessarily enjoy the middle third of the song, but enjoyed the beginning and the end. Strangely enough, I think the artists who featured in the song had a stronger performance than Gary and Gil. Not my favorite track on the album, but a good listen.

5.       Memories (Feat.Baek Ji Young)

Another beautiful track that shows off Baek Ji Young’s talent. You have probably heard her voice in one of the six billion KDramas that she has sung for. Though the song wasn’t necessarily spectacular, I enjoyed Gil’s half-rapping half-singing and the woodwind instrumentals.

6.       I Will Give My Everything To You (Feat.Jung In)

Jung In! Jung In (another one of my favorite singers) has always had an amazing relationship with the members of Leessang is has featured in a large number of their songs.  In I Will Give My Everything To You, she takes a minor role, mainly backing vocals and adlibs. The track’s minimal instrumentals really highlights both Gil’s and Jung In’s vocals. The whole song was so soft and laidback that I got a little bit bored half way through. I don’t necessarily think that it’s a bad song, but it’s a little bit repetitive with Gil’s chorus and Jung In’s backing.

7.       Bird To Fly Before Dying (To.Bizzy) (Feat.Kangsanae And Bizzy)

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this track. With a decidedly Latin vibe to it, the song begins with raw, powerful vocals which are then sprinkled throughout the song. I really liked this song, but once again, it was so repetitive that I got bored.

8.       AsuRa BalBalTa

I was a tad bit puzzled after this song ended. It was an eerie, 57-second electronic instrumental with a female voice repeating the words “Asura Balbalta”. I am not exactly sure what meaning of those words is, but it’s the title of the album so it must be important, right?

9.       Wild Goose Chase (Feat.Guckkasten)

Finally, an upbeat song! While I am loving the whole mellow vibe of the previous songs, I was getting worried that the entire album would be following the trend. This track veers off into the direction of rock and as you would know if you read my review of Bang Yong Gook’s single here, you would know that I LOVE when rap and rock are put together in one song. As expected, the pairing does wonders in this track. Though I am not too fond of the intro, or of Guckkasten’s voice in general, this track is definitely one of my favorites off of this album.

10.   Gangnam Riche (Feat.PoBi)

It’s almost as though the track AsuRa BalBalTa divided the album in half in regards to the genre. The beginning half was more mellow and low-key, and everything thing after takes on a different genre. I love the singer featuring in this song (PoBi); she kind of reminds me of Jung In, but she definitely has her own style.  I have never heard of her before, but I will definitely be doing some research soon. This track goes into Hip-Hop territory and is one of my favorite songs on the album. The staccato synths kind of give off an ominous vibe which was something I haven’t really heard in KPop before.

11.   Am I? (Feat.Bizzy And B-Free)

I’m super happy that we’re getting all sorts of genres of music on this album. Am I? is another Hip-Hop track that features raps from Bizzy and B-Free. Though I thought the rapping was decent, it was nothing special. The beat and the piano and melody are really what caught my eye (or my ear?). It gives the whole track a really sorrowful tone which I actually loved.

12.   Hope

On the same path as Track 10 and 11, Hope is another minor-keyed Hip-Hop song. I really liked the simplicity of this track; there were not too many sounds going on in the background which allowed me to focus in more on the vocals and raps. I appreciated that the raps in Hope seemed more melodic that usual. In comparison to Leessang’s other songs, it is apparent that Gary is far more adventurous with his raps.

13.   Grand Final (Planet Shiver Mix)

Ok, so I never even liked the original version of this song (it’s really ridiculous beginning of the song that ruins in for me). The remix of Grand Final replaces the original acoustic instruments with a swarm of synthesizers, loud beats, and electric guitars. I definitely prefer the previous version.

 

Though I was slightly disappointed with redundancy of the first half of the album, I have to say that Leessang has definitely explored a variety of genres in this album. In their other albums, they normally stuck to one or two genres, and while they were great at what they did, I’m happy that they decided to take a step in a different direction. Gary was formerly known to have a unique and somewhat static rapping style, yet he really impressed me with his versatility in this album. While I always wish that Gil would get bigger parts, I think he performed exceedingly well when he did sing.

Another thing that I loved throughout the album was the quality of the instrumental track. Recently in KPop, most songs contain repetitive electronic sounds that are used to highlight (or sometimes drown out) the singers’ vocals. I like that even with a beautiful or complex instrumental track, Leessang is still able to stand out.

Leessang has been around the industry for almost ten years, and it’s amazing that they are able to move with the times yet still keep that old-school vibe. Overall, I am very pleased with the album and look forward to what Leessang has in store for us in the future.

Rating: 4.2/5

 

Temi

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