Before last week, it had felt like I shouldn’t write about Ha Hyunwoo or Guckkasten, in the spirit of the King of Mask Singer. Now that Music Commander has been unveiled, I can finally share about one of the best bands I’ve heard in a while.
While I was not intent on finding out the identity of Music Commander amidst the speculations, curiosity did get the better of me and led me to listen to Guckkasten. What a find, and one that reignited the rock spirit in me that has laid dormant for quite a while.
First, a quick background on Guckkasten.
Guckkasten (국카스텐) is a South Korean indie rock band made up of Ha Hyunwoo (vocals and guitar), Jun Gyuho (guitar), Lee Junggil (drums) and Kim Kibum (bass). “Guckkasten” is German for ancient Chinese kaleidoscope, and aptly reflects the dreamy and psychedelic sounds – just like the hidden images in a kaleidoscope – that the band set out to create.
One of their songs I like is Vitriol from “Guckkasten”, their first album released in 2010.
Vitriol is an archaic name for a sulphate in chemistry. Written by Ha Hyunwoo, the song lyrics was inspired by Paulo Coelho’s novel, “Veronika Decides To Die”, set in a psychiatric hospital where the director develops a theory about vitriol, an undetectable poison which contaminates the organism over the years. If you are curious, Paulo Coelho explains that vitriol is actually bitterness.
The song starts off somewhat dreamily and delicately, before launching into a more aggressive stance in the chorus.
Guckkasten’s live performances are really good, so here’s one from a show they did in January this year.
And here’s an acoustic version of the song:
I’ve read somewhere that the lyrics is reminiscent of some scenes from Paulo Coelho’s novel. I’ve not read the book myself but it may possibly be so, looking at the English translation of the lyrics.
The broken-down you
rummage through the drawer
take out a sleeping pill
and sing the blues
because the world outside your window
is too bright
The time that’s been out of touch
comes to see me
holds my heavy ear
and says (into it)
that it’s waiting for me
In my head
that’s drawing to a close
it only becomes
a ghost that’s pacing back and forth
and wraps around me
The season that hardly goes by
changes its countenance
while waving at me
and steals the clothes
to get me wrapped in it
it’s turned into a haze
and as it rolls in the cloudy waves
I take out a photo
put it into my mouth
and watch the boat (floating)
You’ve gotten heavy
and while being speechless
looking at the darkened window
you open your mouth
making the staggering sound
Source: MyDearKorea YouTube Channel