Dabda / 다브다, “Yonder”
By Jesse Locke · August 22, 2023 Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), T-Shirt/Shirt

Dabda’s instrumental skills are dazzling, but they never outshine the emotions at the heart of their songs. On their latest EP, the Seoul, South Korea-based quartet combine the flashy technicality of math rock with dramatic pop hooks and lyrics about overcoming feelings of impending doom. The band has experienced their share of disappointment, releasing their debut album in 2020 before the pandemic put touring plans on pause. Yet they pressed on, using the blazing instrumental “Playing With Fire”—regularly performed as the introduction of their live shows—to plant the seed for this optimistic, ecopoetic suite.

Guitarist/vocalist Jiae Kim’s sings about the vastness of the sea on “Flower Tail,” the sailors she evokes yearning for a brighter dawn beyond the horizon. “Origin” tones down the furious riffage of the EP’s opening songs, with lyrics about the wind lulling her into drowsiness. Kim returns to a feeling of positivity on “Cloud City,” singing about love songs ringing out over the noise of a bustling metropolis. Guitarist Joseph Lee’s twinkling leads leave space for Kim’s airy vocals as drummer Seunghyun Lee flows from stuttering breakbeats into rolls that sound like they’ll never end.

Yonder is bookended by its two most powerfully distinct songs. “Playing With Fire” sets the stage with the dual guitarists’ rapid-fire riffs, Keohyun Noh’s grooving bass lines, and Lee’s frenetic rhythms. It sounds unlike the rest of the EP, with a shredding frenzy reminiscent of Dustin Wong’s former band Ponytail. On closer, “One, World, Wound,” spidery guitars and clicking rim shots drop out to spotlight Kim’s vocoder-laced vocals. “We might be a lovely moon/ We might be a slowly moving mobile” she sings in English, before the band returns with an emotional onslaught like Explosions In The Sky. Even when the world puts obstacles in their path, Dabda’s musical mutability keeps them looking ahead.

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