5 MIN READ
‘Amazingly different’ are perhaps the best words that describe Rad Museum’s first full-length album. It’s a long-awaited release, one that comes nearly five years after the singer’s debut under DEAN’s you.will.knovv label with his EP ‘SCENE’. Unlike its predecessor though, ‘RAD’ sees the 31-year-old delve deeper into the idea of pushing K R&B beyond its limits. Having previously stated that he “wants to break the boundaries of what [he] can do”, the album sees a strong willingness to take risks and bring different genres together to create something sonically unique. Undoubtedly, this innate creativity of his has also allowed him to enlist a star-studded lineup consisting of the likes of DEAN, LeeHi, JUSTHIS, and Wonstein to help him create his vision for the album.
Much of the album hinges around the artist’s reflection on life, whether it be in the facet of love or youth. A number of songs delve into the experiences of youth, particularly heartbreak, and regret. On the neo-R&B track ‘U’ for example, we see him detail a situation of ending things with a lover despite not wanting to, (“I texted her to say goodbye / it’s hard to see her face / oh I’m a bad guy”). Here he morphs into the role of the villain, initiating a breakup knowing that it will only hurt his partner and himself. Later on, he reflects on this, (“Are you happy now? / are you being loved? / unanswered questions come to me at night”) demonstrating his inability to move on. Whereas on ‘Say Hello Inner Child’ we see him backtrack to his childhood and express a longing for that innocence once again lamenting that “time passed by too quickly”. Its intimacy shows the separation between the persona of Rad Museum and the man that is So Jae-hoon as he shares his sweet and painful memories. This raw authenticity works for the artist, and when packed into songs like ‘Wet Umbrella’ and ‘Two Bourbon Rock’, it helps elevate them above the less intriguing tracks like ‘Hanryang’ and ‘4D’ that follow them.
‘RAD’’s most distinct aspect however is the way that different genres come together to create something new. If you were looking for an orthodox K R&B album, you won’t find that here. However, listeners of the singer know that his art is anything but conventional as he often veers off the beaten path to conjure up something that is unmistakably his. But whereas releases like ‘SCENE’ followed a more traditional R&B route -at times threading the line of Lofi Rock-, ‘RAD’ is more expansive in its inventiveness of melding genres.
Needless to say, this is an album that cannot be boxed into one category. R&B forms its foundation, but throughout the 13 tracks, it is often punctuated by Funk, Electronic, and particularly Rock. ‘Say Hello Inner Child’ has an early 90’s Shoegaze quality to it. As a bright rhythm guitar strums along to Rad Museum’s slightly husky voice, harmonisations and warped synths, it almost feels as though in another life this song would perhaps come from a band like Slowdive. ‘Forever’ featuring So!YoOn! on the other hand, channels late 60s Psychedelic Rock to create a track that lands somewhere between Pink Floyd and The Beatles with its flange-filled electric guitars, bass and drums that break into a polyphony post-chorus. ‘God’s Museum’ though brings with it more electro-pop vibes whereas the addictive ‘Off-Line’ sees groovy baselines create a Funkadelic vibe to switch things up.
This inability of Rad Museum to confine his music also affords him the opportunity to experiment on the album. Much of the production work involves songs being overlaid by distorted sound effects and ad-libs, take ‘AirDrop’ for example, the album’s bouncy second track. Major piano chords loop throughout, encountering hi-hats and Rad Museum’s unique vocals along the way. What elevates the song though, is the bits of filtered harmonics and sound effects -like the AirDrop sound- that are scattered throughout. At first, it can seem like a lot, but it works well and still allows it to feel like a trendy summer song. Wonstein only adds to this with his addictive voice that has led to him being so sought after. Rad Museum also toys with vocal manipulation on many tracks, but particularly so on ‘EXIT’. Its fast, gain-filled guitars tease you at first, making it seem as though this could be another Rock song. However, this idea is abruptly smashed by pitched up vocals doused in autotune, pushing the song into the vein of Electronic. JUSTHIS lends a feature in his typical hard-hitting flare, his bars engineered ever so slightly to fit with the futuristic essence of the song.
Despite its largely experimental nature though, there is still a defined structure to the release. Like a true artist, Rad Museum displays particular talent in arranging his melodies to paint his scenarios, showing the emotions he feels throughout. Happy times are represented by jazzy major chords and claps as seen on ‘AirDrop’ which match up to euphoric lyrics. Periods of confusion and distress are mirrored by the use of vocal effects, high pitches and gain like on 'EXIT' and ‘Off-Line’. The latter, the album’s title track, especially has a Techno-Funk feel to it. It includes a long-awaited appearance by K R&B prince DEAN whose sweet voice becomes progessively distorted into a robotic frequency like Rad Museum’s as they sing about being trapped in an electronic world. During times of solitude though, things mellow down on the album. Songs like ‘This Night’ show this with warm instrumentation and wispy singing that create a moody setting, tinging the song with sadness. Utlimately, it all works to create an album that feels complete.
Rad Museum takes his time, he makes his fans wait, but ‘RAD’ proves that the wait pays off as it feels like a whimsical journey of sound. In a world where artists are pressured to put out albums faster than ever, his relaxed dedication to keeping his craft authentic is admirable. Moreover, the album’s sonic strengths make it one of the most creative K R&B releases for the year so far. Rad Museum may not be your typical artist but his innovation on this album shows that he is a force to be reckoned with in the K R&B scene.
Rating - 8/10