It’s safe to say that Billlie are best known for never playing it safe. Between their first three mini albums, the seven-piece girl group under Mystic Story Entertainment have etched out an enigmatic and quirky sonic identity that few newer girl groups choose to try their hands at. Like a fourth-generation Red Velvet, Billlie’s lore and musical direction are often shrouded in mystery and unpredictability — it’s never clear where they’re headed next, but wherever they go seems to fit them like a glove.
In this sense, the Billage of perception: chapter three, their fourth and latest EP, is no different. Following title tracks like the punchy “RING ma Bell (what a wonderful world)” and outlandish “GingaMingaYo (the strange world),” chapter three’s subduedness by way of synth-funk and nu-disco influences is certainly an unexpected departure from the peculiarities in production of their previous albums. The group does synth-funk paired with bass-heavy R&B undertones incredibly well, and this album showcases that on a broader and more cohesive scale than their previous EPs even if it comes across as less inventive than others.
Opener “enchanted night ~ white night” aptly sets the scene for this, already leading with the quashed layers of smooth vocals and funk elements that indicate the surprisingly lowkey nature of much of the rest of chapter three. The members’ vocals are sultry and charming to a perplexing degree, even as they practically seep into the buzzy bass that underlies the entire track. Those same hazy vocal harmonies carry into title track “EUNOIA,” which similarly wraps an amalgam of synth-funk, disco, hip hop, and R&B elements all into one. This time, however, the track takes a series of sharp structural turns, switching between instrumental breaks, rap breakdowns, and fuzzy melodic harmonies without a real high point by its end.
While these tracks still have Billie’s signature experimental nature built into them, they don’t entirely take them to new places. Instead, they wander on the outskirts of uncharted territory, never fully committing to their potential for novelty and innovation. Despite this, the group’s fluency in pairing synth-funk and other disco and R&B elements with their own vocals makes for a cohesive set of silky, polished tracks that are earwormy enough for further listening.
“Various and precious (moment of inertia),” the album’s necessary fan-dedicated track, along with “extra-ordinary,” are even better examples of Billlie’s affinity for clean and sleek R&B, and tie that throughline in the album together even more tightly when paired with the aforementioned songs. Like “EUNOIA” and “enchanted night,” “various and precious” also features satiny vocal layers and harmonies, only this time less tightly wound to allow room for patches of retro ‘80s synths to shine as they blip and slide up and down the scale throughout the track. “Extra-ordinary,” on the other hand, is one of chapter three’s more upbeat selections, still featuring a groovy bassline and funky beat. The vocals remain sultry, fluctuating between lower and higher registers, dreamy harmonies, and staccatoed, almost rap-like vocal delivery to form a solid, funk-inspired track.
While the aforementioned four tracks are smooth and cohesive in a hushed and mellow manner, the remaining tracks, “nevertheless” and “lionheart (the real me),” turn up the punchiness and volume in a manner reminiscent of older Billlie tracks. “Nevertheless” is easily the standout in this sense, taking the restraint of the synth-funk and R&B elements used throughout the rest of chapter three and turning them up a notch to create a slow burn feeling that builds in the verses only to burst during the chorus. On top of the push and pull of the instrumentals, the members’ vocals are also at their most impassioned on the entire album, especially during the verses as their voices linger on every word (“When you call my name/I become curious everyday, yeah”).
“Lionheart (the real me)” is the weakest link on the album in terms of its overall cohesion, pulling directly from Latin pop rather than the synth-funk and nu-disco references of the rest of the EP. It’s also the most repetitive track on the album, with the chorus repeating “like a lion, like a, like a lion” particularly in the backing vocals, and not always in the most earwormy sense. The beat and instrumentals chug along neatly and engagingly, but that’s really all there is to it. It’s nothing outside the box or incredibly noteworthy, although Moon Sua’s and Siyoon’s back-and-forth rap verses at the beginning of the second verse are commanding in their own right.
Overall, the Billage of perception: chapter three mostly lives up to Billlie’s continued promise to be different and to do it well. This time, however, their willingness to step outside the box as far as they have before is left at the door. Chapter three may be their most cohesive and consistent project yet, with several well-produced nuggets to make for an overall easy listen, but ultimately pares their idiosyncrasies down to something more simple than they’ve previously proven to be.
(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via Mystic Story Entertainment)