Caffeine (카페인) and Wings (날개) by the indie band Mot (못, which means pond) are unusual beauties. They create a dark world delving into the deepest and remotest corners of your psyche where you’ll only find such grotesque denizens as nihilism, self loathing and destruction, sadomasochism, and their friends. It is a world that do not see the light of day except as a form of art, as in many of Mot’s lyrics. Mot transforms these elements one would normally try to keep under the rug into an elevated art through their heightened sensitivity and genius, creating a strangely attractive world.
Mot is, or rather was, a two men band that started in earnest in early 2000s performing progressive and jazzy soft rock music. eAeon (이이연) started the band and does most of the songwriting, vocals, and programming. Z EE (지이) joined eAeon in 2001 to be responsible for guitar and other instruments and backing vocals. Z EE since split up with eAeon and turning Mot into a solo act.
Mot is not the only artist doing darkly themed music to be sure. There are other artists that specialize in this noir space writing similar kinds of music. I personally think, however, Mot stands out in terms of creativity and originality. Most of eAeon’s songs brim with new ideas, often presenting a distinctive narrative or uniquely engaging scenes. This is in contrast with the norm, where a lot of artists fall into the trap of doing derivative work. Truly original work is hard to create, so the bulk of the lyrics and music we see tend to be variations of one form or another on existing work. If not lifted outright from someone else’s idea, an artist’s work often is derived from his own previous works without the necessary original elements to make it distinctive. So one finds many artists releasing songs after songs sounding alike.
I believe Mot’s songs have the least of this already-heard-that feel to them. It seems eAeon has a higher standard of artist’s conscience which makes him refrain from putting out a new song unless it offers something really new. This leads to fewer released works obviously, but I respect the artists for upholding their digni this way. What matters is the original, high quality works, not the number of releases. Quality, not quantity, must drive art as far as I’m concerned.
Caffeine depicts the narrator sinking into the dark, murky realm of his psyche, triggered by his yearning for you in his mind. It creates a compelling scene going from him scribbling graffiti, writhing with agonies in his uncontrollable mind, the caffeine metaphor, to finally sinking into depression and all consuming loathing and ennui. Carried in appropriately gloomy and urgent sounding music, the whole experience brings goose bumps to one, something any art would be proud of.
Wings is beautiful in its own right, reminiscent of a Greek mythology. It is an exquisitely woven short poem singing about a couple who keep flying ever higher farther away from the world. Its sad melody, mythical lyrics, and a mysterious mood all combine to create an unusual, genius work you rarely find in popular music.
Mot is one of the greatest artists I found in the past decade and half. In lyrical beauty, I think Mot’s works are masterpieces seldom if ever matched or surpassed. Of all the one-of-a-kind Korean musicians, Mot clearly stands out in originality in my opinion. Hopefully there will be more coming.