Billed as a mixtape, Yaeji’s first full-length album is an uncategorisable treat that surfs the cusp of club music, sickly sweet pop and the blithe menace of Boards of Canada. Formerly a graphic artist and house DJ until she turned to music-making, 25-year-old Kathy Yaeji Lee returned to her native New York after a nomadic childhood, much of it spent in South Korea. Her output combines Korean-language lyrics with hip-hop and gossamer electronic soundtracks. This seriously contemporary amalgam evokes K-pop but has more in common with digital auteurs like Grimes.
The production here is both crisp and sinuous; ethereal indeterminacy trades off with crackling attention to detail. It comes as a shock when the vaporous whispers of In the Mirror unexpectedly segue into a drum’n’bass rattle. Texture really matters to Yaeji. Her close-up vocal delivery on glitchy micro-bangers such as When I Grow Up strives for an ASMR tingle. The Th1ng opens with a percussive loop of her mouthing “ck, ck, ck-ck”. And if the lyrical blind spots just add to this record’s inviting opaqueness (at least, to monolingual listeners), it’s very tempting to mumble along to the Korean flows on skewwhiff hip-hop tracks like Money Can’t Buy.