16 Aug 2022
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Imugi - EP Review: Dragonfruit

06 Nov 2020 // A review by Steve Shyu
One of Auckland’s most-talked about indie hip-hop acts is Imugi. Consisting of producer and synth-player Carl Ruwhiu and singer Yery Cho, the duo have wowed crowds around Auckland. After 2017’s acclaimed Vacasian EP, they’ve released their sophomore, titled Dragonfruit. All produced and mixed in Ruwhiu’s flat bedroom, Steve S. delved headlong into the EP and got amongst the goodness.

Across the seven-track EP are a blend of dream-pop and hip-hop. Dream-hop, if you like. The singing styles range from Goldfrapp to a stoned-on-a-Sunday-morning Grimes, and is at the forefront of mixes. Supporting the vocals are synthesised drums, fashioned largely in slow, trap-beat rattles, folded in with stripped-back keyboard riffs.

There’s good use of harmonised vocals on tracks Greensmoke and Somebody Else, and very introspective spoken word verses on Reflections. The album reaches its most urban-sounding right at the middle with Y U Always Acting Like A Fool?, featuring guest verses from rising hip-hop stars Church & AP. The lines are slick, and countered with Yery’s repetitions of a central chorus melody.

Since the use of trap rhythms seems to be the trend of the decade, it’s used liberally throughout Dragonfruit. The slow sound of sharp snares and chittering hi-hats are employed on most songs, including the aforementioned song with Church & AP, plus the opening two tracks.

Personally, Imugi do best when leaning deeper into melodies. The combo of pop vocal hooks from Yery and Carl’s electro-pop synth-lines are easy highlights on the EP, particularly on tracks Somebody Else and Be Here Soon. In fact, the latter is arguably the best of the EP. There are equal parts lounge atmosphere and bopping house party, topped with playfully sweet pop hooks, sounding like Little Dragon and Gorillaz jamming semi-unplugged on a rooftop. Plus, there’s a superb use of rhythm breakdown, giving the song a subtle breath before rounding off with a final chorus.

At risk of sounding like a middle-aged auditor for the PMRC, there are moments the use of cuss words feels unnecessary. I know, it’s not a sin to use naughty words in music, and neither is it uncommon. Harsh language is often used to convey sharp emotions like distress and desperation, yet on songs like the opening tune Portals, lyrics (albeit whispered) like "I feel immortal, I’m at the portal, the soul is enormous, I can’t afford it with all the tragic, all of the fucked up shit" just sticks out like a bruise on an otherwise crisp, polished surface of an apple when applied against a mild-sounding and chilled backdrop. There’s definitely a time and place to get sweary.

While the use of keyboard synths are wonderfully lush and computerised drumbeats are tastefully trip-hop, as on the epic closing track Reflections, one does feel like a few more layers of instrumentation, be it guitars or backing vocals, could bring several songs to a higher level. Still, the mixing on Dragonfruit is superb, and the sound quality is magnificent considering it was all produced in a bedroom-studio. In suggesting that, perhaps the most charming aspect about this release is it doesn’t overdo anything; the familiarity of sounds, and sitting comfortably within one’s zones, can be a very good thing in these times.

If you’re after fresh new indie hip-hop that soothes but also makes you groove, then this EP is for you. It’s picked to be played at house parties, and perfectly ripe for summer beach hangouts.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

About Imugi

Imugi are the silky electronic duo that released their first EP titled Vacasian in 2017, a trip through the diasporic-Asian-girl-psyche and the healing it takes to go from self-consciousness to self-awareness. Dragonfruit furthers that narrative.

With roots in South Korea and Aotearoa (New Zealand), Imugi explores the multi-faceted, wholesome identities and complex issues that migrant women of colour face, through a mix of styles ranging from R&B, synth-pop, funk and spoken word.

The poppin’ duo have played many acclaimed shows from St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival New Zealand 2019, Rhythm & Vines Festival 2019/2020, Red Bull Music Presents. International support includes - Confidence man, Cosmo’s Midnight.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Imugi

Releases

It's OK To Be A Lil Alien
Year: 2022
Type: EP
Dragonfruit
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Vacasian
Year: 2017
Type: EP

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