It’s a rare pleasure to come across a musician’s debut album and immediately recognize that they have a style all their own. This was the direct reaction I had in 2020 to Welfare (Iine Inc.), the first full-length by Philadelphia-based artist Lucy Liyou. It is, as with many other experimental records by emerging artists today, a confessional and curiosity-driven work. Inspired by the impressive stories of traditional Korean p’ansori, Liyou uses electro-acoustic sound collages to meditate on psychotherapy, gender identity and intergenerational family dynamics. The breadth of subjects Liyou tackles in these intrepid compositions is matched only by the audacity of their sonic palette.
The overarching spirit of WelfareTherefore, it is deliberate seeking, the use of art to delve into obscure territory, and thoughtful reflection. The end result is, one hopes, some semblance of clarity. In the ten-minute, multi-part “I’m Going to Therapy,” Liyou considers past experiences and current desires, and the radio play-like structure viscerally explains the generational differences in expressions of love and mental health awareness among the Korean diaspora. fixed. In the States. While “Unnie” is shorter, it’s just as powerful, allowing simple piano chords to support the desires and concessions they proclaim regarding gendered honorifics. The album uses Liyou’s normal voice and text-to-speech, and the latter works to distance Liyou and the listener from the personal experiences they share, even if it adds a further textural dimension. The result is a whiplash between the impressively tender and the aggressively abstract.
On their second album, 2021’s Excercise (Full Spectrum), Liyou makes more use of their classical piano training and creates ambient pieces that delve deeper into family matters. Written over a two-week period during COVID, the album documents the feelings and thoughts they had while their mother traveled to Korea to care for their ailing grandmother. “Patron” electronic trash epitomizes the frustrations of a conversation Liyou had with their mother, while the metallic drone of “Hail” deals with the awkward aftermath, with Liyou confessing, “I think I’m a little overwhelmed right now.” On album closing track “September 5”, Liyou uses the most muted tones as they reflect on memories with their grandmother – eating strawberries, watching Korean dramas and practicing the piano as a way to show how much they love her.This sense of honesty continues. much of Liyou’s music goes back and forth in a way that highlights the complexity and confusion and the immense emotional spectrum.Chicago-based American Dreams Records is re-releasing these two albums together.In this album release, Liyou will team up with producer and musician Nick Zanca They will also be playing new songs, and you can expect them to follow the themes of their previous work – a intimate and ongoing exploration of knotty relationships.
Lucy Liyou, Fri 10 6, 8:30 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western, $15.18+