After an engrossing group release earlier this year, the complex tripleS project continues with the debut of their second subunit. But while their past records raised much anticipation for the new unit, +(KR)ystal Eyes’s promotions for their EP have unfortunately been full of obstacles. From music video delays to canceled broadcast schedules, the strange situation is even more puzzling with MODHAUS’s statement on the matter. A debut that was meant to be cheerful and exciting has ultimately become rife with hardships. This is especially frustrating considering how fun and vibrant the accompanying album is.

Aesthetic carries a familiar, ethereal electropop sound that fits with producer Jaden Jeong’s previous projects but delves even deeper into the Y2K mood. Evoking popular girl groups from the late ‘90s such as Baby Vox, S.E.S., and Fin.K.L, the members provide an interesting take on the retro style that’s both trendy and nostalgic.

The album opener “Cherry 100%” gives a juicy punch to listeners with a mixture of refreshing synths, keyboard, and 8-bit sounds that are explored further in the lead single.

Like the intro track, “Cherry Talk” is as fresh and energizing as a cold glass of lemonade on a sunny day. The synth-pop and new jack swing tune boasts a lush instrumental that’s filled with all sorts of quirks including twinkling synths, chimes, and text messaging sounds for an added Gen Z touch. With youthful lyrics, the girls sing about the fast-paced exchanges of teenagers today:

Long texts ain’t my thing

Conversations? No (Guess what)

Link me to my heart, send me

You know my day flies by, right?

It’s too hot, my daily life

Cool me with your attitude

Expressing feelings to others in this generation has never been quicker. Though, as swift as DMs and Instagram stories are, they also disappear just as easily.

In similar fashion, although there certainly are memorable parts like the “Boom, cherry talk, cherry, cherry talk” lines in the chorus, the vocal melody of the song doesn’t have a lot of impact for the most part. It’s very light and wispy, as if it’s on the edge of disappearing and being drowned out by the more intriguing instrumental.

Having an interesting topline is an important factor for many tunes but even though the single lacks standout vocals, its exceptional production with its high-quality mastering and mixing still deserves much praise.

Nevertheless, listeners who weren’t engaged by the title track will likely be pleased to know that it’s one of the weaker numbers on the album and that the B-sides offer more to impress and captivate.

“Touch” and “Hide & Seek” are especially striking while also continuing the new jack swing vibes from the first two songs.

While “Cherry Talk” included some retro influences, “Touch” is overwhelmed in them. Its dreamlike ‘90s pop tone perfectly captures the character of first generation girl groups and probably wouldn’t sound out of place on an S.E.S. album. This toned-down sound has become more common amongst idol groups, but such an obvious homage to early K-pop acts is quite a rare sight in today’s industry with +(KR)ystal Eyes’s stylistic interpretation feeling like a breath of fresh air.

“Hide & Seek” contains similar nostalgic elements from the propulsive drums and retro vinyl scratches but manages to create a bubblier and more cheerful atmosphere. Additionally, the playful bridge with the funky bassline and prominent cowbell in the background was a tasteful inclusion, and the bouncy sing-along outro rounds out the song nicely.

“Deja-Vu” and “Dimension,” the final two numbers, provide more muted and alluring ambiences.

As a spin-off track, “Deja-Vu” makes good use of mellow guitars and percussion to form a chic air comparable to “Rising.” Its vocal direction, though, follows a notably different path. The members vocals’ are dreamy and whimsical rather than hip and stylish, giving the tune a melancholic and almost romantic vibe.

“Dimension (KRE Ver.)” also takes inspiration from a previously released tripleS track, essentially being another version of the song from Acid Angel from Asia’s Access album. It’s been rearranged with added synths for a bright and poppy mood, giving it a completely different color from AAA’s version while still utilizing the familiar melody. This rendition breathes new life into the subdued tune, giving a fruity punch that matches the energy of the overall album.

On the whole, Aesthetic is an enjoyable take on ‘90s pop that is performed by Gen Z members whose modern interpretation charms and intrigues. It sits neatly next to the rest of the group’s discography with its electropop feel but also helps diversify their style a bit.

With less than a year of being active in the K-pop scene, tripleS have already become an act to keep your eyes on. And hopefully, the hardships that affected +(KR)ystal Eyes’s debut promotions can be resolved and allow the group to continue releasing consistent and enthralling music.

(bnt news. YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via MODHAUS.)