A “DOOR” and “W.ALL” later, Ghost9 have released NOW: Where we are, here that explores their positionality in relation to a larger universe (almost) within their grasp.
Rather than a typical conceptual or thematic framework, Ghost9 have been constructing a locational and sonic one. Beginning with PRE EPISODE 1: DOOR and PRE EPISODE 2: W.ALL, Ghost9 continue to construct and deconstruct their location one comeback at a time. Their newest EP NOW: Where we are, here sets the stage for a futuristic acknowledgement of Earth and the stars beyond.
Stylistically, the group is unique and memorable, with in-your-face synth and electronic bass patches in the forefront, the album as a whole sounds like a mix between future house (like “Last All Night (Koala)” by Oliver Heldens) and technopop (like “Future Pop” by Perfume), but with the bass turned up to eleven. This eclectic mix of pop, electronic sampling, and techno and house influence makes the group stand out sonically from most others in the Korean industry right now and allows them to continue cultivating a distinct group sound.
There is a dark, punk attitude to their group concept and seems to have an overarching feeling of looking towards the future (infinity or beyond). With both fantastical and sci-fi elements, the title track “SEOUL” is a fierce claim over the capital, expressing it as a city of light and soul within this world. The sound itself is repetitive and busy, with almost too much going on in the forefront to understand from a first listen, but still manages to be catchy and vibey in the best of ways. Futuristic, flashy, and sassy, the MV takes listeners sonically and visually through Seoul by way of flying roller coaster.
The visuals in the MV are just as fast-paced and borderline overwhelming as the group’s music but keeps the listeners on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. Something the production designers have accomplished well is the placement of the members in a variety of real settings as well as sci-fi ones that meld reality and the fantastical into a complex tapestry that almost looks real. The flying dragon and roller coaster might be a bit outlandish, but they do make the bright, flashing, overexposed, and futuristic world of Ghost9 seem like a reality.
Most of the remaining songs on the album sound fairly similar and create more of a soundscape rather than follow any recognizable theme. However, they do generally fall into two categories. “UNO” and “Trigger – Intro” sound similar to “SEOUL,” but with a bit more grunge in the sound.
From the wildly fast synthesizer ostinati and washy, EDM-esque percussive sounds in the background, both songs are catchy, easy to listen to, and just overall enjoyable. They sound like what you would listen to in a night club or rave… or tripping acid and imagining yourself on a spaceship engulfed by the endless expanse of the Milky Way. One of the two.
Leaning into the more vibey, technopop sound rather than the grunge of future house are the remaining tracks “Starvoy,” Hide & Seek,” and “Monday to Sunday.” The texture is thinner, more vertically aligned in the main groove (less extraneous, ambient noises), and has bass more in the background than the foreground compared to “SEOUL,” “Trigger – Intro,” and “UNO.”
“Starvoy” is one of the catchiest songs on the album. The funky, bouncy bass, especially in the chorus, fits the upbeat, fantastical theme of the song, and the energy is infectious, with a variety of grooves and textures that build from the beginning to the end of the track. A definition for “starvoy” specifically is hard to find, but it could be a cross between the slang term “starboy” and “voyage.”
A “starboy” according to Urban Dictionary is a synonym for a womanizer or rockstar, someone who has been around the sexual block a time or two. With lyrics like “Dance with a stranger” and “give it to me girl,” this definition seems on par for the romantic voyage Ghost9 are luring the listener into. Likewise, the idea of an encounter or voyage that takes one beyond euphoria… well I will leave that one to your imagination.
Ghost9’s NOW: Where we are, here is a unique and head-bobbing foray into techno and house that invites us to examine where we are and where we could be, now or in the future. While there is no clear thematic or conceptual framework, the members instead create a soundscape resembling something out of an intergalactic raid. With such a unique sound concept for the group, I look forward to seeing how the artists grow and continue to carve their own sonic and conceptual path among the fabric of other artists currently active in the music industry.