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The Electro-Hip Wizardry of Casker

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Lucky listeners who have discovered Casker’s music can be transported to a festive Brazilian dance floor one minute and a smoky Seoul jazz club the next.  Their style is literally all over the map and thus somewhat difficult to describe, but that’s what makes them so entertaining.  "Lounge electro-pop" might be a good name for Casker’s basic genre, but on top of that they incorporate a dizzying variety of flavors, such as bossa nova, jazz, trance, emo, techno and even occasional folk-y grooves, with heavy Latin influences. 

Casker is a Korean duo made up of Lee Yoong-Jin, who contributes lead vocals and lyrics, along with some composing and instrumentation, and Lee Joon-Oh (also spelled in various sources as Junho or Juno) who does most of the producing, arranging/composing, programming and synthesizers, as well as some backing vocals.  They add musicians when performing live in order to play their many complex sound effects and melody lines simultaneously.  In fact, multiple layers of electronic tunes with unusual acoustic instruments like accordion, violin, maracas, and xylophone are a Casker trademark.  The duo takes their name from a character called Caska in the Japanese manga Berserk, of which Jooh-Oh is a fan. 

Although most of their lyrics are sung in Korean, with occasional forays into English and Spanish, you don’t have to understand the language to enjoy Casker’s music.  Whether it’s one of their funky techno-pop tunes like Nu, a bossa nova classic like Madame Butterfly, or a mellow number like Vague, Casker’s compositions always manage to capture both the ear and the heart.  Since playing together from the early 2000s, Joon-Oh and Yoong-Jin have developed a rare ability to convey underlying meanings or atmospheres, which transcend the spoken word and come through to listeners no matter what mood they might happen to be in.  One never gets bored listening to Casker; depending on the song, their music could be equally at home accompanying dinner at an elegant restaurant, bouncing through a teenager’s earphones, or providing background music for a sophisticated urban hipster party.

Much like in the U.S., electronic and lounge music takes a back seat in Korea to traditional pop, and increasingly, hip-hop.  So Casker is not particularly famous even in their homeland, compared to the K-pop super groups that might come to mind for most Westerners when they think of modern Korean music.  However, Casker’s creativity and variety of composing styles makes for a refreshing change from the Korean boy- and girl-bands who follow a more tried and true, formulaic approach to songwriting.  While those K-pop groups deserve much credit for introducing Korean artists markets outside of Asia, there is far more diversity to discover from Seoul’s recording studios, and Casker is a prime example.

Being that their music has not been licensed overseas thus far, Casker remains somewhat underground for Western audiences.  However, the increasing popularity of Korean drama television series in the west has put Casker on the radar of some; their background music and original songs appeared in several episodes of Coffee Prince.  Another perhaps unforeseen outlet has been YouTube, where popular videos by hosts such as beauty guru Michelle Phan have featured Casker songs as backing music.  While they’ve not yet had the opportunity to release music in Europe or the U.S., much less tour in these locations, the duo is hopeful that someday they might be able to connect more closely with the growing following of fans beyond their country’s borders.  To date Casker has made three official music videos, for the songs Cat and Me, Ela (Bajo De La Luna), and Nabi Buin; as well as five albums, the latest of which, Tender was released in October 2010.




Albums:

 Cheolgabhokseong (The Planet Built With Steel) – 2003

 skylab - 2005

 Between - 2006

 Polyester Heart - 2008

 Tender - 2010

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