Odd Eye Circle
Version Up


3.4
great

Review

by JohnnyoftheWell STAFF
March 14th, 2024 | 19 replies


Release Date: 07/12/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Stanned LOONA where is my fucking paycheck

Odd Eye Circle are back! Not that they ever left: this project was created as a 3-piece sub-unit of the 12-piece K-Pop group LOONA, unveiled in 2017 as part of their labyrinthine rollout strategy, after which the full group took precedence. Yet while LOONA is dead, the original trio of JinSoul, Kim Lip and Choerry are recording and performing as Odd Eye Circle for the first time in years. They are 'back' with a new EP Version Up, the bops are flowing, and the timeline is – for once – very much the correct one.

Why This is a Big Deal is an entire iceberg's worth of incendiary bangers and horrifying deep lore, so please hold my beer while I go full James Cameron on that fucker:

On the level of "I don't care about K-Pop", Odd Eye Circle's 2017 album Max & Match is the nearest thing K-Pop has to an out-of-genre classic, and you don't need to speak a lick of Koreanese to get why. On the face of it, that album reps the same synthetic electropop and slinky R&B stylings that a thousand interchangeable tunes burn through every year, but it packs spade upon spade of that je ne sais quoi that elevates livewire real-deal ecstasy from stodge-clodden earworms, so much so that its core appeal boils down to the simple question of is pop music really for u? If yes indeed it is, quit reading and get fressing: you'll find some of the last decade's most enduring pop highlights from any nation on that record (namely the absurd central parting of "Girl Front" and "Loonatic"), earning Version Up a couple of preemptive exclamation marks on the standalone basis of first release since __. With the classic K-Pop orientation hazards of discography size, membership numbers and opportune familiarity with fan lore all generously low and their ceiling superlatively high, Odd Eye Circle are a rare case where a handful of killer hits are the only factor making meaningful demands of your attention: don't you dare tell me you have anything better to point it at.

For anyone with half their arse across the threshold of K-Pop entryism (hi), Version Up is also significant in that it marks the trio's reunion with Max & Match creative director Jaden Jeong. Jeong was an instrumental figure in the inception of LOONA and all sub-units until 2019, whereupon he stepped down in response to their agency's insistence on dumbing down the project's conceptual focus). He has since founded his own agency, MODHAUS (to which Odd Eye Circle is signed) and manages the rotational 24-piece act tripleS. Although I was never hugely invested in the main LOONA project, the [#] EP (their first output following Jeong's departure) was drab plastic by anyone's standards and marked an immediate cutoff of my interest in the project (and glancing at the reception their subsequent output attracted, I regret this not one bit). From this perspective, hearing Odd Eye Circle back under the same management as in their glory days carries a certain sense of closure as well as excitement.

The elephant in the room all this time has been the fate of the LOONA mothership – and for anyone familiar with the group prior to this review, the undignified circumstances of their demise hardly bear repeating. The short story is that LOONA's agency Blockberry Creative mismanaged the group with an increasingly overt show of incompetence, trapping the members in a financial structure wherein each member received just 30% of their profit share while covering 50% of their expenses (a.k.a. a no-hope debt whirlpool), incurred an escalating measure of bad faith after firing one of its most popular members under a spurious pretext, and attempted to transfer the group's exclusive management contracts to Universal Japan without any member's consent. Thanks in particular to the shadiness of this last point, the entire membership won all twelve of their independent lawsuits against Blockberry Creative, successfully terminating their contracts and leaving the group in 2023. LOONA itself is an empty vessel in Blockberry's soiled hands, but the majority of its members have stuck together in the spirit of the original project, forming the splinter groups Loossemble (under CTDENM) and ARTMS (also under MODHAUS). MODHAUS won the Odd Eye Circle trademark back from Blockberry, and so this project's revival (now as a sub-unit of ARTMS) is one of the most iconic victories of a hard-fought campaign against an uncommonly public display of bullshit industry practices.

…all of which attaches no little significance to what is otherwise a robust but unastounding sixteen-minute EP. The brisk opener "기다*어?" splices together an introductory pastiche from Max & Match's highlight reel, which earns a nostalgic shrug out of context, but a shit-eating grin from the relish with which it brushes off the drama of the interim years. This persists throughout the following standout "Air Force One", which kicks off with exactly the kind of explosive chorus Odd Eye Circle have always thrived on, all while dipping its toes into the same breakbeat and 2-step flourishes that we heard just a month later on the excellent debut of tripleS sub-unit LOVElution. It's a watertight banger that turns every other second into an autonomous hook, but the group are less convincing in the way they adjust their footing for changed times across the remaining tracks. On the whole, their blazing electropop has been dialled down in favour of nu-disco and R&B: the latter emphasis produces a tidy highlight on the gauzy "Lucid", but the more disco-centric "Je ne sais quoi" and "Love Me Like" land in a mid-tempo netherzone, underscoring that these girls have always fared better doubling down on weapons-grade discharges of gratification than they have cruising over passé trends. This, along with bitty sequencing, leaves Version Up a sparky affair that catches light only momentarily. It holds its own as a comeback statement, but lacks the electric knockouts that made Odd Eye Circle such a touchstone to begin with – one turns away from past triumphs and raises an eyebrow in the direction of ARTMS' upcoming full-length.



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user ratings (14)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


60521 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

No you are not mad that this review is so late that babies conceived when this dropped last year are going to be born any week now, I am mad

Thank you proof gang Sint+Komp, stan LOONA (fuck LOONA)

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


5480 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good morning i am ready to proof oh wai

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


60521 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lfg now you must jam

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


5480 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it is nice outside is this summer jam?

parksungjoon
March 14th 2024


47235 Comments


common Jesper L

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


60521 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this can be summer yes

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


5480 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

more like johnny of the ell etc

will jam once i am done teaching!!!

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


60521 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

lol am also teaching rn fuck

parksungjoon
March 14th 2024


47235 Comments


theres two of you now therefore you are common

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


60521 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

L for legion amirite

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


6190 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice summary of the events leading to this release. Early LOONA was golden, too bad they didn't compiled the solo and units stuff into a boxset. Je Ne Sais Quoi is my favorite off of this EP.



Stoked to listen to ARTMS finally debuting next month I think? Also, Loossemble are returning in April too.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 14th 2024


60521 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Month after next, but yep excited for that and for more tripleS projects

AnimalForce1
Contributing Reviewer
March 14th 2024


859 Comments


I didn't even realize how much shit had happened to LOONA. I enjoyed So What, but most of their other stuff has just sort of passed me by. Glad to see they actually prevailed over bad management, I feel like that never happens in K-Pop

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2024


6190 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, Modhaus keeps things interesting in Kpop. Too bad they didn't all regroup at this label.



Also, sad to see LOONA influence newer acts visually and conceptually, but not getting much out of their deal for it.

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2024


5480 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is smooth and nice

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2024


60521 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

no u

"Glad to see they actually prevailed over bad management, I feel like that never happens in K-Pop"

gonna take the cynical route and blame this on their management's incompetence - Blockberry was a small agency that basically revolved entirely around LOONA + affiliate projects, their parent company disappeared after all its artists left in 2022, and the way they handled the press when the LOONA situation was escalating screams a PR team that was way out of its depth and essentially flailing around in the dark to me. dunno if this will inspire any kind of meaningful industry reform, but nice at least to attract a little scrutiny to shitty practices

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2024


6190 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think it will inspire shittier clauses especially at smaller labels so the members can't do much damage later. Maybe at the big companies things might improve a bit due to scrutiny IMO.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2024


60521 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah word - gonna be the same ballpark as the follow-on from the Taylor's Versions, where the 0.5% of artists who could call their own shots negotiated their masters back, and everyone else got faced with brutal ownership clauses on all new contracts

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2024


6190 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

GFRIEND got it best as far as I know, the group's name was deemed too generic to be kept as trademark by the label. So they could reunite at any time



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