I have been convinced that fans of Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Mount Eerie, The Books, and Four Tet will love Mid-Air Thief (공중도덕), and I was right.
First, there was HYOO (휴). Dreamy downtempo sounds and subtle rhythm were mingled together in his two EPs, “화원” (Flower Garden)] and “해몽양” (Dream-reading Ocean), both released in 2012. Then there was “공중도덕” (Public Etiquette) and his self-titled debut in 2015.
Estranged from nimble electronic production of HYOO, he changed his way drastically to acoustic guitar-based folktronica. Eerie, yet deeply comforting voice and unconventional multi-layered melody, which was unusual in South Korean indie scene (then, and even now), attracted many people’s attention to him.
Three years later, he changed his name to 공중도둑 (Mid-Air Thief), a charming pun that only altered the last letter (Gong-Joong-Do-Duck to Gong-Joong-Do-Dook) to change public etiquette into sonic-crossing thief, and unveiled another album, “무너지기” (Crumbling).
The reason of the name change, though, is pretty simple. Two of the famous rappers in South Korea, Dok2 and The Quiett, organized a project team of the same name for hip-hop reality television show , and he wanted to avoid the misconception.
These are the basic information for Mid-Air Thief I know, and even in South Korea many music fans don’t know further than these, as he is quite enigmatic figure in the country too (he didn’t even play a single show). But all you have to understand is that his music is fantastic in perplexing way, like slowly waving a ragged flag in isolated forest, or gazing forceless wave in front of sequestered beach under overcast sky. Dim, little sunshine engulfs you with late-autumn’s fragile warmth.
Thanks to a cassette recorder in the mastering process, “무너지기’s” sonic landscape is filled with lukewarm lo-fi atmosphere that polishes (or blurs out) the astounding layers of chattering instruments, sound effects, samples, vocals, and others. Summer Soul, another talented musician in South Korea, lent her voice and lyrics to “무너지기”, adding gleaming enchantment to already wonderful music.
I have been convinced that fans of Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Mount Eerie, The Books, and Four Tet will likely to have a one-hit crush on Mid-Air Thief, and my expectation seems correct. “무너지기” is getting rave acclaim in Rate Your Music, Reddit, and other underground music fans around the world.
It’s quite encouraging that listeners get to know there’s other marvelous South Korean music besides K-Pop, but I think Mid-Air Thief himself would not dwell on this international excitement. He recruited bassist and drummer to establish band after releasing “무너지기”, and we may witness another transformation of his music (and live shows, of course) in the future.
Stream “Crumbling” LP on Bandcamp and Spotify.
Mid-Air Thief on Soundcloud.