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TRCNG take a dated sound and make it work on “Spectrum” with an assault of energy

TS Entertainment has been a real mixed bag when it comes to idol groups. Their first two, Secret and B.A.P, were huge hits — even if both have suffered from mismanagement and long hiatuses in recent years. But the agency has struggled to get girl group Sonamoo off the ground, and now they’re throwing a new rookie into the ring. The ten-member TRCNG (K-pop names just keep getting weirder and weirder…) are notable for their young age, which TS proudly declares as being “an average of 15.9.” But first single “Spectrum” is no NCT Dream or The East Light. Instead, it takes a cue from the aggressive style of B.A.P’s first few releases.

There’s something to be said for a new group who feels like classic second-generation K-pop. “Spectrum” is built around a militaristic blend of symphonic dance pop and a hearty hip-hop stomp. This style was in vogue several years ago, which gives the track a slightly dated feel. But at this point in 2017, I’ll gladly take “dated” over yet another tropical house pastiche. The song’s chant-heavy hooks take full advantage of TRCNG’s large configuration, even if they don’t allow for much melody to poke through. “Spectrum” is on assault from its very first moments and never really shifts gears. Like many songs of this genre, its verses don’t really amount to much. We’ve heard this brand of shouty hip-hop countless times before, and when the guys aren’t trying to prove how tough they are, they’re really just keeping time until we hit the chorus.

Thankfully, the chorus packs a punch. On first listen, it all sounds a bit basic and expected — relying on bombast over melodic complexity. But as the track becomes more familiar, its small touches stand out. I love the swirling vocal ad-lib that echoes each line, and the wonderfully futuristic synth noise that adds grit to the post-chorus refrain. It’s not quite enough to mark TRCNG as one of the year’s most exciting rookies, but there’s definitely potential here.

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