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K-Pop Beyond The Charts: Recalling The Robot Rock Of The Koxx's Seminal 2011 Album 'Access OK' [AUDIO]

By Jeff Tobias | July 28, 2014 07:14 PM EDT


K-Pop Beyond The Charts is a periodic review column highlighting Korea's modern day musical innovators who have yet to find mainstream success.

In the musical history books, there may very well be a demarcation line in pop music's evolution. I'm thinking: "B.D.P." and "A.D.P."

Or Before Daft Punk and After Daft Punk.

The French duo may be the most visibly responsible source of the worldwide electronic dance music craze, typically abbreviated as EDM. Their melding of muscular arena rock and ecstatic dance culture has been absorbed by seemingly all neighboring segments of the pop music map.

Korea is no exception. And one of the strongest proponents of this synthetic robot-rock is the South Korean outfit The Koxx, a hard-partying quintet based out of Seoul that emerged as a seemingly instant success in 2010.

On "Access OK," the title track of their 2011 debut full-length album, The Koxx ride a line between sweaty, human rock and cold, electronic pop. The song simultaneously represents the group at their most technologically savvy and willfully boneheaded. The results are satisfying in both cases.

A harmonized pair of lead guitars is the first thing you get from guitarists Lee Hyeon Song and Lee Soo Ryun, presumably performed shoulder-to-shoulder onstage. Before long, the door is kicked down by the drummer Shin Sa Ron, bassist Park Sun Bin and keyboardist Shaun.

The ensuing beat is as insistent as the firing pistons of an automobile. It is here that the highly regimented rhythmic influence of Daft Punk is strongly felt. The unerring repetition also alludes to the affection that The Koxx seem to have for British loop-rock band Foals.

Lee Hyeon Song's lyrics are New Romantic bravado--a series of boasts, each one proceeded by a cocksure "of course."

A hard-partying ethos is apparently what's been advocated on "Access OK," along with some satisfyingly meaningless phrases that wouldn't sound out of place coming from the mouth of Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon.

The chorus smartly does away with words altogether, favoring a soaring melody that is custom-made to be chanted at soccer stadiums. But depth, it seems, is not The Koxx's strong suit, nor is it their focus or intent. Rather, precision and energy are the order of the day. And its an order they fully deliver, like the former music students they are.

By the end of the second chorus, the true majesty of the foot-on-the-monitor rock deity is summoned, complete with some Tommy Lee-style fills on the drums.

However, we're never allowed to forget that this is the product of a highly technology-oriented studio setting. At the two-minute mark, all the air is sucked out of the stadium, and the drums roll with bionic exactitude. It's not very human, but it is extremely exhilarating.

The bridge brings us to a destination that might've erred into a more obvious "here comes the drop" moment.

Instead, the rhythm section slips into a sleek electro beat with a descending synth bassline that repeats too few times to be fully enjoyed. This is a section that would benefit from an expansive, lengthening remix.

The whole thing is over before you know it, with an absolute maximum of crowd-pleasing gestures employed in as short an amount of time as possible. The Koxx have been relatively quiet since their explosion into the public consciousness with "Access OK" and the year of touring major venues that followed.

Here's hoping they'll return to lead us further into our inevitable cyborg fate.

Listen to "Access OK" from The Koxx RIGHT HERE


Jeff Tobias is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, he has been researching the history of tuning systems and working on his jump shot.

Tagged :  the koxx, access ok, Daft Punk


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