Switched On – Park Hye Jin: Before I Die (Ninja Tune)

park-hye-jin

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Park Hye Jin releases her first album on Ninja Tune, the culmination of a whirlwind couple of years for the South Korean. Now based in Los Angeles, she has built up a strong reputation for original electronic music through collaborations with Blood Orange, Nosaj Thing and Clams Casino & Take A Daytrip – their track Y Don’t U being especially successful.

Perhaps her biggest calling card yet however is the track Like this, caught by BBC Radio 1 and 6 Music and chosen for the soundtrack of FIFA 2021. It is one of the many reasons Before I Die is so highly anticipated.

What’s the music like?

Extremely varied. Pigeon holes don’t exist with Park Hye Jin around, for she can effortlessly turn her hand to so many styles, reflecting the human condition through a wide range of moods. While that might sound like a lazy observation, few artists can rise to this challenge with such infectious confidence.

She moves from the deadpan rap of Never Give Up to the direct come-on of Can I Get Your Number, from down tempo R&B numbers like the slightly warped Sunday ASAP to big dancefloor gunners such as Hey, Hey, Hey. Sometimes the lyrics involve straight-to-camera honesty, like I Need You, which is dressed with an old-style piano and briefly drenched in nostalgia.

This direct approach runs through the album, which is highly entertaining, often funny, sometimes tender – but almost always hitting the mark with its sharp riffing and clever beatmaking.

Does it all work?

It does. Before I Die is over in a flash, with many of the tracks well under three minutes – showing Hye Jin’s ‘all killer and no filler’ approach, which works really well. In the course of the 15 episodes you really feel like you get to know her as a person, what makes her tick and what pisses her off, and to end with the level-headed i jus wanna be happy is right on the money.

Is it recommended?

It is. Park Hye Jin’s original approach takes dance music back to its first principles, working through an often thrilling range of beats and emotions. She is without question an artist to watch.

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