In late 2011 – hot on the heels of Trouble Maker’s successful debut – Cube Entertainment teased fans with the prospect of a new 4minute subunit. Rumored to be formed by lead vocalists Heo Ga-yoon and Jeon Ji-yoon (also a surprisingly competent rapper) anticipation was running high – finally, a 4minute related promotion unencumbered by the inevitable Hyuna buzz! Despite this positive response, Cube mothballed the project, presumably to focus on 4minute’s upcoming group promotions with “Volume Up.” The duo made their long awaited debut earlier this month with their first mini album Harvest Moon, proving once again that good things really do come to those who wait.
Despite being plugged as K-pop’s first foray into country, “24/7” is a K-pop tune through and through replete with sing-song chatter, an addictive hook and lashings of pure pop. Even so, the country influence is clear but what’s so magical about this track is how Cube have managed to make these two wildly different genres come together so successfully. “24/7” is relentlessly energetic and effortlessly cheerful and while fans have been quick to criticise its promotion (in place of ‘Why Not’ or even ‘Black Swan’) one would do well to keep in mind that this is perhaps the most original tune ever to come out of Cube Entertainment. What with the industry heavyweights releasing ever more experimental tracks in a bid to remain relevant, that Cube chose to promote 2Yoon’s most creative song shouldn’t come as a surprise.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmwlw_szmcw&w=560&h=315]
2Yoon slow it down with “Nightmare” featuring BTOB’s Ilhoon, a subdued reflection on a long lost relationship. The song has a raw, honest edge to it that is perfectly complemented by 2Yoon’s emotive vocals. Even the rap breaks are delivered with sufficient venom to justify their presence. At times I was reminded quite forcefully of Timbaland (feat. One Republic)’s “Apologise” but I think this just speaks to the quality of Cube’s production. The acoustic instrumental and growing emotional intensity of this song make it my favourite off the album.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for/dreading a cover of Hilary Duff’s song of the same name. Instead 2Yoon dish out what is easily Harvest Moon’s most epic track. “Why Not”‘s churning – almost industrial – electronica is much closer to 4minute’s trademark sound and brings the girls back into familiar territory. In many ways “Why Not” comes as a relief because if 4minute’s vocalists have proven themselves to be good at anything, it’s belting over electronic feedback. The comparisons stop there however, as “Why Not” avoids all of the pitfalls of a typical 4minute filler with clean transitions and a clear, emotive melody.
The next track “Clap Clap Clap” provides a welcome reprieve from the intensity of the preceding tracks. Given that this is perhaps 2Yoon’s first ever shot at R&B, the girls carry it off splendidly. “Clap Clap Clap” has the kind of laidback, effortless sexiness you might expect from a Taeyang track should he suddenly take up an interest in acoustic guitar. Kikaflo features and, like Ilhoon before him, shoulders some of the weight in keeping the mini sounding fresh and dynamic.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMlpc0363QM&w=560&h=315]
2Yoon round out their first mini album with another nod to their roots in the form of “Black Swan.” The echoing refrain and arena style synths (along with Nassun’s Hyuna-esque murmurings) keep ‘Black Swan’ firmly within 4minute’s territory. And once again the superior production and lack of musical deadweights makes 2Yoon’s take on this formula far more engaging. Dubstep rears its ugly head only briefly and with considerable restraint, making this song’s abrupt ending my biggest complaint.
This mini holds together surprisingly well, making for an eclectic and thoroughly enjoyable listen. The production keeps the songs fresh and allows the girls to showcase their talent without resorting to obnoxious adlibs. Vocally, the two girls complement each other well with Ji-yoon’s huskier tone softening the impact of Ga-yoon’s distinctive wail. Not only that, 2Yoon does what a subunit should do and offers us something different from what 4minutes as a whole has ever done (and arguably could ever do).
Most impressively, Harvest Moon aspires to do what few K-pop albums dare; actually establish a clear sense of flow and move purposefully from track to track, all the while rewarding the listener’s patience with solid song writing, production and execution. 2Yoon have done all this and more and I’m giving their debut effort a 4.5/5.
(Cube Entertainment, E-Tribe, Mosley Music, YG Entertainment, Yeizon)