Review Summary: A gorgeously immersive showcase of short 'n' sweet Korean R&B
Some words are so select in their usage, so prone to backfiring when misapplied, and so irritatingly short of reliable alternatives that I have a straight-up hate relationship with them. Case-in-point: lush
. There’s no middle ground with this one; lush
is either the perfect way to encapsulate a saturated state of blue-toned comfort that rejects coldness and heat/intensity in equal measure, somehow skirting all the adverse qualities of lukewarm
all the while, *or* it’s an awkward wet-blanket adjective that sits a little too close for comfort to potential worst word in the English language moist
. As such, it ends up in the Necessary Use Only pile alongside the likes of sensual
etc. As a result of all this, I’m more than a little peeved at South Korean producer JIDA for coming up with an album that fits almost every connotation of that word so neatly that its use is entirely mandatory. Fortunately for all of us, this album is so damn gorgeous that these semantic misgivings don’t take long to dissipate in its wake.
Let’s get the obligatory mention out of the way here and now: LUCID
is lusher than your ex’s favourite lava lamp on a winter night. This album is half an hour of gorgeously smooth R&B packed with intricate arrangements, breathtaking vocal performances and pervasive atmospheres somewhere in the middle ground between rainy-day daydreams and wistful romanticisms. Following his one-time collaborator Rachel Lim’s departure from Seoul, JIDA expressed an intent to work with a wider range of artists in a 2017 interview. He follows through on this here, working with three female vocalists across the album. GA EUN, star of the opening trio, has a rich, husky tone that immediately fleshes out a foundation of smoothness; LILAC brings a perkier shade of silky brightness with an almost childlike sense of yearning; Kate Kim has a more direct approach closer to your classic contemporary pop singer. All three artists have self-evident talent, but JIDA’s own contributions are difficult to unstate. His arrangements are gorgeously textured, smartly paced and impeccable in how they bring the best out of his collaborators, spotlighting, supporting and accentuating whoever happens to be holding the mic in immersive and dazzling fashion. Highlight track “Bloom” is perfectly presented in this respect, toying with an überkitsch sensibility for twee swing that gets sucked into the song’s atmosphere every time it borders on excess. It’s beautiful, fun and classy without taking itself too seriously. Less extravagant but equally charming is the title track, which sees LILAC deliver a doozy of a performance over soft tones and delicate, lilting melodies.
However, the full value of these gorgeous voices becomes all too evident in midway instrumental “Water”. This track is a slick enough affair that confirms the strengths of the album’s glossy production, but it also suggests that without his collaborators, JIDA’s sound is considerably less engaging regardless of its competent realisation. It’s hardly an outright downer, but “Water” plays out like a calling card for all LUCID
’s construable weaknesses: a little too clean, a little risk-free and a little homogenous. This last point is something I’d attribute more widely to the production, which plays an ambivalent role in how it shapes the album’s sound into something so appropriately amorphous that its spectrum of difference is ironed out. There’s actually a lot more variety between these tracks than any number of casual listens would indicate: the reverbed-to-oblivion bluesy guitar in “Moonglow” has very little in common with “Low”’s catatonic waves of rich synth tones or “Snow”’s straightforward R&B/pop sugar, yet they play out as one interchangeable Strong Vibe after another. I don’t know whether it’s more accurate to say that JIDA’s lush tones oversaturate these arrangements to the point of near equivalence, or that his style is distinctive enough for otherwise disparate ideas to sit aside one another cohesively, but either way I hope his future material fleshes out idiosyncrasies in each track’s arrangement more boldly. This doesn’t really come to LUCID
’s detriment, since the album works hitch-free as a silky smooth mood piece, but it also hints at the scope to which JIDA might seek to raise his game. A flattering reflection of strengths and limitations alike; all things considered, this man can soundtrack my dreamscape and/or late-stage date nights whenever he so pleases.