After almost two years, prodigious Korean producer Code Kunst gifted listeners with his third full-length studio album. Muggles’ Mansion is an ambitious project, drawing from several influences and artist sounds in a compendium of music that spans from one end of the musical spectrum to the next. The album’s name is actually rather interesting. The term for “human-born” from the Harry Potter universe, it implies that all who dwell in this multi-tiered home are only human. And in that humanity lay their true magic.
The album’s intro “Artistic,” is a testament to this idea of several voices of varying imperfections and nuances that bring together a plethora of sounds, experiences, and specialities to bring a little bit of magic to the world. The sole lyric, “We are artistic,” is like a chant, a mantra meant to instantly define the album’s bent. With the mellow keyboard melody under riding the song, there’s a harmonic dissonance that while leaning in a bit at an angle is still soothing to the ear. There’s a dreaminess in the introduction that pervades the entire album, lulling the listener and putting them on the same plane of existence as that milky dream world where these sounds effuse the very air.
The first of the most notable collaborations comes compliments of Vismajor Crew veteran Nucksal. Track “Perfume” was the perfect way to bring the album to life. Nucksal is a talent that’s hard to ignore: a flow that’s aggressive yet never rushed, a vibrant vitality that’s utterly timeless. The sharp signature change after the song’s first verse turned my head, as if reaching out and grabbing me, forcing me to become a part of this new universe.
As goes the entire album. Each feature is another added layer of magic on an already enchanting piece of music. Through interludes we ready ourselves for something truly spectacular, only to be seized by the throat, as if on the verge of tears, as the song comes to full bloom. The interlude to lead single “FIRE WATER” is deceptively serene. As it acts as the intro to one of the more emotionally laden songs on the album, it may not seem like much, just a musical proclamation. However, the notes are anything but filler. There’s a push and pull to the sound, probably a product of using a reverse loop to add tension to an already tense production.
So when we do get into the groove of the track, we’re already itching for something profound. The weight of G.Soul’s croon and Tablo’s aggressive declarations does somewhat bear down on the music. Including Kunst’s own growl, the ethereal nature of the music becomes swallowed. However, the clever engineering of this album becomes all the more apparent when you realize that’s exactly why that interlude was put there in the first place. In context, the track is two-tier: first bombarding us with overwhelming emotion with its introduction, then giving us the unabashed ferocity of the vocalists involved on the track. Tablo entreats, “Have you ever loved somebody to death?” and forces us to relive the wildness of love’s fury.
That’s what’s so utterly amazing about Muggles’ Mansion. Even heavy-laden with features, the pure, raw, unfettered emotion of Kunst’s production and composition suffuses even the most adventurous vocalist with even… more. Lee Hi’s contribution, “X,” is astounding. The vocal layering on this track is to die for. Lee Hi’s voice has an exceptional maturity to it, rich like an aged brandy but with a sophisticated taste on the palate like a 1975 Bordeaux, even as she wraps vulgarities around her tongue: “Call me a bitch. I’m proud of it.”
It’s clear this is an album meant for vocalists–not just in terms of singing. Anyone with a voice and an edge had space to play on Muggles’ Mansion. Oh Hyuk’s presence on track “PARACHUTE,” that husky growl, is instantly recognizable. The addition of offonoff vocalist Colde on the album’s outro, “White AnxiEty,” was inspired. Colde has a voice that’s pure and simple, easy to fall into. The song sounds like snow, like the city of this quick story line is shrouded in darkness, streetlamps flickering to life as the snow gently dances in the air until reaching the ground, touching the street with a sigh.
I was also reintroduced to voices that sort of left me cold on past releases. As in “PARACHUTE,” for the first time I’ve felt some of the emotion and can acknowledge a kernel of that fire so many continue to praise in Dok2 that missed me in most of his releases. In track “Beside Me,” we have another instance in which what I’d previously thought about an artist was transformed. Suran’s voice has a twining soul and power that I hadn’t associated with her up until this point. A blues, at moments, reminiscent of Amy Winehouse.
Not every song reached that level of emotional headiness, but for the most part, I was overwhelmed with just how thick this piece of music is. On track’s that Kunst does assert his vocal presence, for instance, “MORE FIRE,” one gets the sense he’s weaving incantations in the air, allowing the calligraphy of each spell to linger until someone walks into it. It also speaks to how much control Kunst has over both his music and his construction. “MORE FIRE” is as explosive as its namesake. However, where many blazes whip and whirl with no rhyme or reason, Kunst’s fire is contained, as if trapped between metal walls, incapable of being set free but expanding the material and morphing it with its white-hot intensity. This subdued explosion of sorts defines exactly what Kunst brings to music: pent-up energy begging to be unleashed. When the door finally opens, the blast scatters that sound and fury, bits of musical shrapnel ricocheting off every surface and into the listener’s psyche.
That volatility lingers throughout Muggles’ Mansion. For instance, track “Don’t Shoot Me MAMA.” This collaboration with Car, the garden is almost painful in its lament. I have flashbacks to “Amor Fati,” a collaboration between Epik High and Nell on the veteran hip-hop group’s critically acclaimed 2014 album Shoebox. The isolation, even ostracization, from a supposed superior being, or in this case a matronly figure whose purpose is to nurture and protect, but instead it burns and neglects.
Muggles’ Mansion truly was a magical experience. With Code Kunst’s guiding hand, so many artists were given the space to expand themselves, that is breathe into their craft and elevate. Or rather they felt the need to amplify themselves, to push for more to keep up with the artistic boldness of the man heralding the project. Though Muggles’ Mansion is riddled with features, Code Kunst’s presence is felt in every corner. You know it’s his album from the production to the moments he does show up to give his passionate expulsions. Yet his generosity to allow other artists their chance to make a little mischief is a blessing to both the artists themselves and the listeners lucky enough to have listened.
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop | Release Date: 2/28/17