I never expect anything less than greatness from Guckkasten. Whether they’re doing standard pop-rock or alienating psychedelic rock, they always manage to put it on fire with their raw performance energy. This is especially true with vocalist Ha Hyun Woo at the forefront, who is explosive and exhibits impeccable vocal control. ‘Guckkasten‘, their self-titled first album in 2010, was remarkable, and while I’m not sure that their new album ‘Frame‘ amounts to their first, but it certainly doesn’t fail to demonstrate all the things that make Guckkasten such an impressive group.
Despite my general enjoyment of ‘Frame’, the title track, “변신”, didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s fun as anything, but the gimmicky, disco-inspired chorus prevents the song from being anything more than a decent energy-booster.
Thankfully, the album comes instantly back to life, starting with “소문,” which is led by a glorious kazoo hook. This track, among several others in the album, demonstrates Guckkasten’s strength at balancing sensitivity with musical schizophrenia. Each song has its fair share of sweaty, virtuosic sections, as well relaxed sections with elegant melodies.
There are some gorgeous melodies on this album, which Ha Hyun Woo delivers really nicely. He knows exactly when to hold back and let go of his voice so that he can pack a punch on the important notes and harmonies. The slow tracks such as “깃털” and “카눌라” show this off particularly well.
I do think that ‘Frame’ would sustain the listener better if it were more adventurous with its musical ideas. Sometimes Guckkasten stagnates on individual sections, sounds, or rhythms to the point that the magic runs out and things start to get predictable. The album has the paradox of having an extremely spontaneous energy, but being a bit too calculated and not experimental enough compositionally. A couple examples of songs that go against this, however, are “스크래치” and “미늘,” which never stagnate; they’re always experimenting with new cool sounds, textures, and harmonies in a way that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat.
None of these things discount the fact that ‘Frame’ is an incredible listening experience. Few groups surpass Guckkasten at doing high-octane music so tastefully, and the performances in themselves are enough to keep me hooked for an hour. I would love to see Guckkasten expand some their compositional techniques, but I’m content with the masterful musical caffeine-boost they’ve provided us with in ‘Frame’.