Contributing writer drowningn00b reviews Aziatix’ “Nocturnal” Deluxe Edition.
Hip-hop and R&B of the Asian persuasion is not new to Western audiences. Most famous is Far East Movement, which grabbed everyone’s attention through club hits. Other groups are geared for different audiences, like One Way starting in the Korean market and its English-speaking counterpart, AZIATIX, going for the Western audience in the United States. Debuting in May 2011, Aziatix went for a primarily R&B sound, with Eddie Shin and Nicky Lee as singers and Flowsik as the resident rapper. Their debut album, ‘Nocturnal’, is a synth-heavy, electronically-based R&B record that is too familiar to be unique.
At their best, AZIATIX is at the high end of good. In “So Incredible” featuring Stevie Huang, a dance-pop track made for club play, the beats are subdued just enough to let the guys come through and make a statement. However, it comes across a little safe, with minimal vocal or emotional impact to make the lyrics believable. A shame, really, because in the record proper (without the remixes), that’s the best the singers get. Thankfully, however, the deluxe edition includes an acoustic remix of “Go”, which is leaps and bounds their best track yet. Eddie and Nicky finally sound like talented singers, especially Eddie Shin, whose bridge and pre-chorus have the sad undertone that the original lacked. No electronic abuse (more on this later), but simply three guys whose talent comes through. Sadly, it took till this remix to hear it.
Flowsik, on the other hand, is a talented rapper and lyricist, with lines that are the reason to listen to the mediocre stuff at all. Where Eddie resorts to tried lines like I don’t want you to go, even if you tell me, you’ve gotten over me girl, cuz lately I, realize without you, I can’t live another day [“Slippin Away”], Flowsik’s lines make it clear the rap and vocal lyrics were not written by the same person. On the same song, the sentiment is clear as day, but the expression of it is what sets it apart. I admit, I don’t have what it takes/ To serve and provide what she wants on her plate/ So I put her in place, then I’m closing the gates/ Locking the chains, no intention to wait, wait [“Slippin Away”]. His best lines are for his bombastic solo, “A Game”, with we be poppin’ bottles and you be sippin warm beer and the we’re-gonna-conquer-the-world lines Startin’ from every single state, to the rest of the world, there’s no mistakes/ Look, I’m wide open so just pass me the rock so I can catch this break [“A Game”]. As much as it is a listening experience, music also has a visual aspect, and that’s what Flowsik did right with his lyrics. Being able to portray the same image with different words takes creativity, and moving forward, Flowsik should write more of the lyrics for that missing punch.
Stylistically, AZIATIX is a fantastic R&B group, but they’re not necessarily breaking grounds. Oftentimes, ‘Nocturnal’ hits you with electronic gimmicks, ultimately compromising flow for unwarranted repetitiveness; at close to an hour, the repetition slips by you with no impact. For their debut single, “Go”, the effects of the sirens help ramp up the energy. They don’t annoy, however they do become a crutch in an open display of overuse. And it isn’t just the siren that get used like this. Want a ballad/somber track? Then use a piano. (“Go” and “Start It Again”). Is Mid-tempo R&B more your style? Then expect drawn out synths. (“Slipping Away” and “Nothing Compares to You”) Every troupe in pop gets this treatment. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not overwhelmingly impressive either. Tracks like “A Game”, “So Incredible” and “Go (acoustic remix)” firmly stray from the formula set by producer Jae Chong (formerly of R&B k-pop boy band SOLID), but they’re details we’ve heard time and time again in hip-hop and R&B. If an artists wants to re-use existing templates, it’s best to use the specialties out there for maximal effect. Otherwise, you’ll be drowned by those who do it better.
Debut records are tricky to execute. You want to be different enough from the rest to create your own appeal, but not so different that audiences have to work to understand you. Unfortunately, AZIATIX’s ‘Nocturnal’ falters to create that unique necessity for long-term pop success. A few good tracks like “A Game” and “Slippin Away” released as an EP/mini works, but they get lost in the shuffle when they’re placed in an LP cluttered with filler songs. Lukewarm lyrics, decent vocals and over-used musical troupes don’t make for world-wide success, especially considering pop audiences now have an easier time scouting for music outside their home countries. “Nocturnal” is a valiant effort from a group who’s only a year old. What AZIATIX need though, is to enrich their sound by pushing their talent to its limits. To reach for creativity and innovation, because it feels like they haven’t quite made that leap just yet.