Friday, January 1, 2021

Duff Guide to Ska Bullet Points: Kitma "Runnin'" b/w "Runnin' Dub" and The Soul Sauce meets Kim Yulhee (featuring Yun Seok Cheol) "East Sea"

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

  • The vinyl single paper label lists the performer, song title, and imprint (Happy People Records)
    While I'm still in the process of digesting musician and producer Eeyun Purkins' brilliant new album Beating the Doldrums by The Co-operators and Friends, he and Kitma--one of the wonderful singers in his musical orbit--have issued a new heavyweight (in every sense of the word) single "Runnin'" b/w "Runnin' Dub" (7" vinyl single/digital, Happy People Records, 2020). The alluring and hypnotic reggae cut "Runnin'" is a journey through a series of surreal nighttime visions (chasing whiskers blowing about; crawling through walls): "I'm in a lucid dream...Where the lights go out and the people can't sleep/Nothing but heels gonna follow my feet...I'm on the run again." The odd goings-on are subtly reinforced by the slightly off-rhythm thumb-piano sounds tinkling in the background in the left speaker/headphone. And its dub version is even trippier with a heavy dose of menace in the mix (a brash pipe organ-like horn blares out the melody in parts). This is the business!
  • The vinyl single paper label features the artists and song title, and the sleeve features a stylized drawing of a tree.
    The latest single from The Soul Sauce "East Sea" (7" vinyl single/digital, Eastern Standard Sounds, 2021) continues their collaboration with pansori singer Kim Yulhee as they reimagine traditional Korean folk music in ska and reggae settings (see my review of their "Swallow Knows" single from earlier this year). For South Koreans, the East Sea holds considerable spiritual, cultural, and historical significance (and there has been a long-standing dispute with Japan over its name that is particularly loaded, as it relates to Japan's brutal annexation of Korea from 1905-1945), and this type of Korean folk song--a Minyo--expresses the emotions of everyday people through songs of struggle, heartbreak, and despair. From what I can tell (and if Google Translate is accurate enough), the song is about someone traveling at sea (or they have already reached their destination), separated from the one they love: "At the pier where I left, only my heart embraced me/Are you carelessly leaving me?/When will you come?/When you leave, I'm waiting for that day to come...Even tonight, only the lighthouse lights flicker so lonely/Ulleungdora [a volcanic island] towering over the East Sea." Despite these downbeat lyrics, the music is brisk and cheery top-notch traditional ska, and Kim Yulhee's singing is rousing and vigorous (as opposed to mournful and defeated). It's different from the standard ska fare--but really amazing!

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