[Review] ARTMS get experimental with the deliciously ominous and unsettling “Birth”

Despite denials that ARTMS would be a group back when the name initially emerged, it is indeed a group consisting of ODD EYE CIRLE plus Haseul and Heejin, the other LOONA members under Modhaus. Technically a pre-release single, but really just one of the singles as a part of an extended two-month rollout for their Dall album, “Birth” is an appropriate name to kick things off, and it takes ARTMS in a pleasantly odd direction, both musically and conceptually.

Note: Yes, the title basically says “deliciously ominous and unsettling birth” … shoutout to Cronus!

“Birth” immediately captures the listener’s attention, though not with catchy melodies or an addictive riff, but rather with the unsettling and almost sinister tone that emanates from it, and it feels like we’re walking through a haunted house or something. A creeping piano, distorted strings, and eventually careful percussion hits underpin the track, and while the horror and occult aspects of it are early Dreamcatcher-esque in concept, sonically it’s much more deliberate and designed to produce tension throughout rather than explode into rock melodies. The members themselves do extremely well to match the soundscape, delivering clear but lingering vocals, as if their notes were left probing in the air and curious, and it helps keep the mystery of what was to come going.

Said mystery is partially solved when the electro-industrial growl hits for the chorus along with the “I could gather ex-boyfriends” and the remainder of the spoken hook. The rest of the song comes into frame when the song suddenly accelerates at a breakneck pace with a drum-and-bass run, a clever way to incorporate a trendy element. But it feels more impactful here than in other K-pop tracks due to the previous tempo, like seeing a fastball after a bunch of offspeed pitches, and throughout all the chaos are the vocals of the ARTMS members impressively cutting through it all.


“Birth” is an ambitious undertaking, and it’s best when consumed with its visual accompaniment, which does its job in enhancing every aspect of what the listener is hearing. A cursory examination of the visuals and lyrics leads this is about something like the grieving aspect of a breakup and the emotional turmoil that comes with that, including an exploration of the stages of said grief, which explains the switches in tempo, sound, and visuals throughout.

Even if that’s just the surface level of the reading, I thought it was a clever imagining of the theme. It’s also a surprisingly cinematic experience, as if we’re watching a trailer for the reinvention of the ARTMS members.


While “Birth” can seem musically scattershot at times, what helps the almost avant-garde concept come together is that all of the elements are individually appealing. I’m also likely biased towards these types of haunting, cryptic, and cold atmospheres if the execution is there to match, and ARTMS manage to pull off a rare song without a real melodic center that holds appeal for me.

Basically, “Birth” is one of those songs where if I read somebody writing it off completely as barely a song and explaining that this isn’t what they’re into K-pop for, I’d totally understand that view. But for me it’s endlessly intriguing (which is worth something in itself), and while this isn’t a track that you necessarily keep on repeat for a pop playlist, I do think one might end up revisiting this more than anticipated. The replayability is in how novel the sound is, how well-crafted the elements are, and how there’s seemingly new things to enjoy on every examination. If it were three minutes long instead of abruptly ending, I think I’d love it without even much hesitation despite the structure. Pair all that with the experience of the music video, and it just delivers an overall excellent experience.


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