Korean church songs, Brooklyn heartbreak; New Jersey dearth, mad Philly cheesesteaks; long-term friendships, that damn pandemic; that man John Legend; candles; and time. If you can relate, that’s great. Apparently, though, this is the witches’ brew it took to unearth the sacred tapes that held the future of Maiden Seoul. Initially recorded by vocalist and keyboardist Soo Jin Yi and eclectic guitarist Ian Macaulay in the early 2010s, the two songwriting pals from William Paterson University reunited to turn them into magic. Accompanying them on percussion is Ian’s friend and drummer Rashid Williams (who he met while touring with Eric Roberson and “that man John Legend” in the late 2000s – so, at least that part is explained). Together, the trio conjured up the genre-exploding, indie-pop, jazz-infused, roots-reggae-informed debut album Cinemanic with songs tracked so deeply, it’d take an army to play live and a dedicated research institute years to fully mine.
This album will be worth returning to for years to come – because it took years to produce. Years that sharpened Williams’ rhythmic genius, even when he plays glass candles with his drumsticks (for real, listen for it). Years that saw Macaulay transcending horizon after horizon of musical influence (try to count them). Years that gave closure and irony to Yi’s Brooklyn heartbreak as she married and became a mother (and recorded several tracks on the album belting from her baby bump).
So that’s what you get: decades in minutes, in each and every track.
And all you have to do is push play.
The lead single from the soon-to-be-released Cinemanic, “Verve” electrifies the rainy scene surrounding uncertain affection from a detached lover. Traipsing through an ever-expanding array of funk struts and synth overlays, Yi mellifluously traces the tidal emotional journey of gauging another’s intentions. Gliding on Williams’ effortlessly expert punches and punctuations, the tune fearlessly wades into a trance-like state before regathering itself and fading into the funky melancholy from whence it came. Recorded and rearranged over nearly a decade, the song contains original tracks that battle alongside new elements to create a well-bodied, somewhat ironic expression of ghosted longing.
To really steep in the atmosphere of “Verve,” pull up its moody and magnificent lyric video. In a theatrical scene that nods toward the title of their upcoming album, Cinemanic, manga-styled movie-goers observe a cartoon Soo Jin recanting her woes as she walks in the rain on the silver screen. Vignettes feature similarly stylized Ian and Rashid, respectively (though disrespectfully) rocking out on guitar and drums – an interjection of the aforementioned mature sense of irony the band cultivated over the years. The cinema crowd gradually emerges from their bourgeois cravings for entertainment and weeps openly as Soo Jin sails away on her string-suspended moon of gloom – likely to return once more, completely reimagined in releases to come.
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