As Astro continue to take on different projects apart from group releases with various solos, subunits, and acting roles, Moonbin & Sanha have made their second comeback as a duo with their EP Incense.
Their debut record In-Out had the two step into a more mature space, and their second EP Refuge delved even deeper as they displayed more growth and sophistication. Musically, Incense lies somewhere in between In-Out and Refuge. Using certain elements from their previous albums, Moonbin & Sanha broaden their musical spectrum and show a variety of colors in the six new tracks while remaining within their chosen genre.
Going along with the album’s concept about scents, lead single “Madness” compares Moonbin’s & Sanha’s alluring charms to an intoxicating fragrance that is addictive enough to drive people crazy:
It’s my madness (Madness)
It’s my madness
Fall for me even more
Fall for me
It’s my madness
Make you even crazier
This pop-EDM number continues the sultry air from “Who” while also incorporating a groovy bass, giving the tune a funky energy comparable to “Bad Idea.” Its presence in the verses is immediately attention-grabbing, pulling listeners in as other instruments gradually come into the mix. When the bass leaves during the pre-chorus, it is Moonbin & Sanha’s striking vocals that get most of the spotlight. The wispy vocal melody is even more captivating, raising the tension higher right before the beat drops in the smooth chorus.
However, although the chorus is refreshing at first, its electronic instrumental quickly becomes repetitive and does little to amplify its initial energy. This is quite regrettable since several musical flourishes in the song are just glimmering with potential. The second verse briefly features a surprising rap section from Sanha with his delivery in tandem with strong, punchy beats. After the bridge, we get a lively dance break that sounds like it could expand into something more fierce and frenzied. However, before these intriguing portions can develop, they are cut short, and the melody soon falls back into the thin chorus. For a track titled “Madness,” it would have been nice if Moonbin & Sanha had the opportunity to really let loose and go crazy musically. Instead, there is a strange sense of restraint that seems unfitting given the tune’s lyrical content.
Moving into the b-sides, the EP is a bit split with sensual tracks making up the first half and softer, more lighthearted numbers rounding out the second half.
Intro “Perfumer” and Moonbin’s solo song, “Desire,” both have similar sultry vocals and R&B vibes. As the album opener, the dreamy atmosphere of “Perfumer” is perfect for setting the tone for the rest of the record, and the duo’s unique vocal colors really shine over the languid instrumental. While the tune submerges listeners in its hazy aura, “Desire” keeps the audience on their toes with a dynamic vocal melody. Its Korean title “이끌려” (i-kkeul-ryeo) expresses attraction and being drawn to something. With lines like “I’m attracted to you more for some reason, oh” and “I’m attracted to you who push me away, love,” Moonbin seductively conveys his attraction to someone who’s the complete opposite of himself. These two numbers are the most mature and sensual from Moonbin & Sanha’s discography so far.
On the other hand, pop songs “Chup Chup” and “Your Day” are the duo’s most cheerful and endearing tunes. Though the tracks are not as sweet as Astro’s signature sound, Moonbin & Sanha’s experience with cute concepts is extremely evident here.
“Chup Chup” combines bubbly synth and bass sounds for a bright R&B ambiance, sharing some similarities with Refuge’s “Boo.” Lyrically, the song also continues the playful story from “Boo”:
I’m your trick, inside of treat (I’m in love)
Everything I want every day (I’m your everything)
Now get it, get it right
I’m ready, ready now, yeah
Let my dream become your dream
With “Your Day,” the track mainly uses a peppy disco rhythm along with string and piano sounds to cheer up listeners. The number also includes various sounds from vehicles such as a car honk and airplane chimes, increasing its fun, adventure-like vibe.
Even though we’re still in the middle of winter, these two songs sound almost tailor-made for the spring season with their fresh, happy melodies.
The remaining track, “Wish,” is probably the most discernible on the album because of how musically different it is from the rest of the songs. Sanha’s solo song, “Wish” is a sentimental pop-rock ballad that expresses the member’s love for his fans. Interestingly, the Korean title “바람” can mean both “wind” and “wish.” With this, Sanha hopes that his gratitude can reach all his fans through the wind, singing:
I’ll be standing here even after time passes
So that you can find me anytime
Until my voice reaches you, oh
I’ll become the wind/your wish and find you
It is a very warm and heartfelt piece that wonderfully captures Sanha’s sincerity.
Overall, Incense shows that Moonbin & Sanha’s musicality has no bounds as they explore several different moods and themes. It may not be the unit’s most cohesive record, but it nevertheless solidifies the duo’s distinct style, immersing listeners in their unique scents and musical colors.