Decadent is just one of those bands (or an arts collective, as they prefer to be known as, to include their live-painting aspect during concerts) that seem to exist on their own dimension. Their youthful energy emanates in a syntax vaguely familiar, the message enticingly intricate. ‘Decadent‘ is the band’s first full-length album, coming in a full year after their official debut with the EP ‘ㅔ‘. The band freely mixes elements of jazz, soul, blues, and psychedelic music together with rock in their self-titled album, as they have been doing since the very beginning.
The first track is “Disease.” It features multiple guitars, some plucked and others struck, woven together. The way each guitar and vocal chorus is panned is a continuous source of pleasure throughout the album. The bassline gives the neo-soul chords a kind of jazzy groove, while occasional distorted guitar riffs sprinkle a hint of blues.
The second track, “Footnote,” is the title track of the album. The track is heavily Latin-inflected, with classical guitar arpeggios playing on a relatively simple electric guitar riff and another psychedelic guitar. All of this sits on the funky groove of the bass guitar reminiscent of one of the band’s other songs, “Hundred Per One.” The track transitions to full-on salsa towards the end, with claps on top of the drums and the guitars taking the place of the rhythmic piano. The explosion of energy at the end is simply amazing, the guitar solo and riffs going back and forth between salsa and rock while the bass remains consistently funky.
“La Tomatina” is a skit meant to introduce the next track, “Tomato Homicide.” It features band members reciting the lyrics of the next track over the bassline. “Tomato Homicide” is a track familiar to fans who have been going to the band’s live performances. The distorted bassline and mosquito-like guitar panning in the intro builds up the suspense befitting a murder scene. The tone of the guitar riff and the funky rhythm is reminiscent of Thornapple’s work. The second chorus, in spite of lying closer to pop rock, fits in with this groove perfectly. The rock-and-roll guitar solo at the end is not at all jarring thanks to this, even as the song continues to acquire a sharper edge.
The fifth track is “Chromatic Sensation.” A psychedelic guitar tone speaks the language of blues with the help of the drum grooves, then waxes closer to rock with the chorus. Form serves content in this track: the lyrics use colors as an analogy to poke fun at the good-evil dichotomy, and the song demonstrates this by mixing in all of these different genres. Towards the end with the rhythmic flanger and a bass guitar transformed to the point of sounding like a different instrument, it’s unclear where exactly this song sits on a genre spectrum.
The next track, “Salome,” shares its name with the Oscar Wilde play. It starts out funky with a slap bass on an 8-beat groove and a wah-wah guitar. The kazoo later comes in to make the seemingly unlikely connection of tones with a distorted guitar. The song takes another unexpected direction towards noise rock, especially towards the end.
“Tonsure” marks the end of the first part of the album. The track fits in closer to soul in terms of the guitar riff, chord progression, and melody. The bass provides an added percussive element on a simpler drum beat. The breakdown in the middle features members shouting at someone to “come out,” which makes clear the organization of the album — the first half takes on an indoors narrative, while the next track and onward sing of going outdoors. The intensity in the latter half of the track sounds similar to Suchmos, a Japanese band known themselves for mixing in soul and hip-hop influences into their music.
“The Window” is an interlude featuring a recording of band members goofing around mixed on top of the strumming of an acoustic guitar. The next track is “Ausgang,” or “exit” in German. Starting out with a bassline, it feels like a softer iteration of the album’s fourth track, “토마토 살인사건.” The soundscape is intentionally muddy at the first half, then gets cleared up with the metallic guitar riff, just as the lyrics start to sing of leaving.
“Spaziergang” is German for “walk.” Beginning with an echoing guitar picking, the song is more visceral than some of the others in the album, with repeated lyrics saying things will get better by walking. The instrumental break is glitchy and squeaky, combining with the echoing soundscape and repetitions to give off a drunken feeling. The track winds down nicely with a slowdown of the tempo and panned vocals.
The most experimental track of the album is “Peter Parker.” The different rhythms and melody lines are borderline cacophonous, combining jazz and avant-garde influences with balladic blues in the melody. The tone of the guitar in the outro sounds almost like a synthesizer or a space ship. Funnily enough, this song is the band’s first composition together.
The final song of the album is “B,” an obvious reference both in title and content to the intensely soulful blues track “A” from their previous EP. This track shares the intensity while leaning closer to blues. The composition is dramatic, almost like a musical score, and the climax feels like something Prince might pull off.
The album also comes with a CD-only bonus track, “데카당,” which allegedly contains the “real” message the band hopes to convey through the album. I will have to wait until the winter to be able to get my hands on the physical album.
Decadent has a holistic approach to art — the music, the lyrics, the composition of the album, the live performances, and the live paintings are all equally important avenues of communication for them. Listening to this album was more stimulating for me in this sense because I could be pretty sure that whatever detail I did notice was probably intentional and fit into a message the band is trying to send. Whether I do or don’t understand their intentions is secondary; that the album forces me to engage with it on that level enriches the listening experience.
Also, they’re just really good at what they do.