EP Review — skepticism

Often when I listen to music, I am analyzing a two-part relationship — the vocalist’s ability to interact with the instrumental, and vice versa. It’s this duality, this yin and yang relationship that defines the quality of a song.

Take Florida rapper Gazzy Garcia, more widely known as Lil Pump, for example. On it’s own his ability to rhyme is pretty unimpressive, almost elementary. The topics of his songs are one sided and the repetition gets old fast. Yet, Lil Pump is one of the biggest names in the industry.

Why? Because despite all of the aforementioned criticisms, he and his producers know exactly how to make a track that works with the vocals. It’s this special combination that, pun intended, allows Pump to pump out chart topper after chart topper.

This quality of dualism can be found to a stronger and more balanced degree in South Korean balladist Yang Da-il’s latest EP, “skepticism”. At only five tracks long, this release is the perfect case study on how to blend strong vocals with strong instrumentals and have them both retain individual importance while combining to create a project that is truly memorable.

Coming in at just over 14 minutes, “skepticism” listens like a soft breeze, both in duration and sensation. Each song travels along in a calm, slow fashion, peacefully orchestrated by strings, guitar melodies, light percussion and gentle keys. Allowing independent sounds to resonate or suspend over periods of silence is something that is rare in many types of contemporary music because it is risky and often hard to precisely convey emotion and meaning in such an isolated occasion. Yet Yang and his composer took the risk and succeeded in doing so.

Despite how peaceful the whole project is, the production illustrates how loudly Yang can sing while still appropriately changing dynamics. Even while listening at a lower volume, the natural strength of the vocals can always be heard.

This power is exemplified in the track “Dream.” “Dream” primarily comprises of revolving interactions between an acoustic guitar, a soft electric guitar and vocals, which all climax during the chorus. While the guitars remain in the background, Yang uses vibrato to express lines that feel as if they never resolve, causing the listener to yearn for a final note that will never come.

The second and fifth tracks most aptly display the relationship between Yang and the songs he sings, in that they are “Tonight” and its instrumental version. In careful study of each individual song, you can almost visualize how the final product was carefully crafted and fit together. Something about the elimination of the vocals allows you to hear the song as if it’s completely different.

Balladry is a tough genre to master, especially in South Korea where singing shows are extremely prevalent in popular culture, as it relies most heavily on an individual’s pure singing faculty. Only masters truly balance their vocal abilities with fitting instrumentals to create music that isn’t overly bombastic on either side of the spectrum. “skepticism,” and to a greater extent, Yang Da-il demonstrate that one-in-a-million talent.