Yeo | Credit: Leah Jing

Love Letter to a Record: Yeo on ‘130 Mood : TRBL’ by Dean

Music Feeds’ Love Letter to a Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with the music they love and share stories about how it has influenced their lives. Asian-Australian songwriter and producer Yeo gives praise to 130 Mood : TRBL, the 2016 debut EP by South Korean alt-R&B artist Dean.

Naarm-based pop and alt-R&B artist Yeo is at his most open-hearted and direct on the new album TIRED, the long-awaited follow-up to 2019’s Recovery Channel. “I write about the usual things I’ve written about in all my albums,” Yeo said in a statement. “Betrayal, self-sabotage, loneliness, abandonment, my disdain for how everyone’s opinion on an artist is based on everything except the art… only this time I’ve made it spicier.”

Yeo’s love letter to Dean’s 130 Mood : TRBL

Yeo: It’s the back end of 2015, a dry Naarm summer night. I’m exhausted from the unrelenting Tame Impala dinner party discourse, so I bail home after replying to a text from a new dancer friend who’s a night owl and going through some shit. Yeah, I’m still up, we can hang.

We sit on my bed with my laptop in my dilapidated share house and she pulls up a video of Jay Park throwing down choreo to his track ‘Solo’. The dancing strikes me with envy and awe but it’s the music production of Cha Cha Malone that sends me down an online rabbit hole at 2am.

Some point in the New Year, while surfing the Soundcloud universe of Korean R&B and hip hop, I stumble upon a small crew named – perhaps regretfully – Club Eskimo. Every track hits like a new flavour cartridge in a vape – saccharine, heady and moreish as hell. Amongst the names in the bio are Dean, Crush and Miso, three dextrous vocalists I’d heard on three different tracks.

Some quick Googling informs me that all three also produce for the group. They’re throwing a launch party soon at an Itaewon club called Cakeshop. East Asian musicians, creating together with DIY efficiency, fits and branding all tight and mysterious, all releases self-proven sonically innovative heaters, and best of all, Western critics be damned. A space for me existed. It just felt so far away.

I was privileged enough to be living in the inner north and playing with the nicest people in the scene, but it wasn’t the kind of music closest to my heart. Nothing could stop the idea that my feelings of creative isolation were my own fault. I withdrew further into fantasies of a career elsewhere.

My surrender to idol worship began at the peak of my introversion when I discovered the grainy music video for ‘풀어 (Pour Up)’. I was open-mouthed, watching a handsome, pastel-suited Dean stroll around an airport runway performing lip-synching in front of a dramatic backdrop of vintage airliners and a blue hour sunset.

Luckily for me, it would not be long until he dropped the preview reel for 130 Mood : TRBL, a lo-fi animation set to a carousel of song snippets. This upcoming loot would be his first extended release. His fanbase held its collective breath. When the EP finally arrived, the music healed me. The loudest epiphany was that the internet brought me such beautiful work from a distant land, and it was not a one-way street. I was inspired to continue driving against the flow of traffic.

Similarly, in this cult-of-personality era, Dean speaks with his music. Enigmatic on social media, he leaves his fans wondering, and he does it in lowercase. There’s a quiet confidence in his production, melodies, and timbre. His voice alone could halt an argument, but the way he uses minimalism leaves no crumbs after serving up one of the best Korean records of the decade.

I could spend another 500 words telling you how 130 Mood : TRBL captured my heart and pinned it permanently to my identity as an R&B fan, but you should just experience it for yourself.

Yeo – ‘CALL IT’

Stream and purchase Yeo’s new album TIRED here

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