[HOT TRACK]Dropping into a smooth ride

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[HOT TRACK]Dropping into a smooth ride

On the local music highway, if you're not in the middle of the road you're probably stuck on the shoulder. Artists out of the mainstream tend to be overlooked.

But the local act Roller Coaster, which just released its third album, "Absolute," seems content to veer away from formulaic pop, and explore what it can do with what it calls "acid pop." The trio - the vocalist Cho Won-sun, the bassist Jinu and the guitarist Lee Sang-soon - crafts a sound that's rich and groovy, if not profoundly artistic.

Fans of the band, who tend to shorten the name to "Roller," respect the trio for shunning the usual road to stardom: self-promotion till it hurts, especially appearing on every TV show possible.

Roller's most recent sound may not be instantly appealing, but it is eventually enchanting, with Cho's subdued but sultry vocals and the restrained, groovy instrumentals. That contrasts with the band's previous album, "Love Virus," which was more experimental; it featured the traditional Korean string instrument the haegeum, and Cho's vocals tended to be gloomy, creating the atmosphere of a shamanistic ceremony to forget one's beloved.

In the new album the band has toned down the vocals some to get a better vocal-instrumental balance. The first cut, the mid-tempo "Last Scene," is a bittersweet song about separation. Cho sings "Nothing lasts forever / I recognized later that you were not there where I was going / It's a relief that time marches on / Now I say your name just casually."

While the new album is smooth and polished, it lacks the crude spirit that made "Love Virus" something special. The only real deviation from the polished sound is "Butterfly," a nimble cut with rapping mixed with computerized vocals. The jewel of the album is "The Story About Her" ("Geunyeo Iyagi"). A bit slowed down, the song effects a sublime atmosphere, with Cho singing in a marvelously languid manner. The band's first stab at an acoustic sound, "Winter's Gone" ("Gyeowuleun Gago"), also works well.

On the CD cover and booklet for "Absolute," the band is less camera-shy than before. On its debut album, the trio only showed themselves from the waists down.

Unlike some of Roller's old songs that had immediate appeal, you may have to listen to "Absolute" a few times to appreciate it. But the quintessential Roller sound is there: It's like reading a sad story with plenty of time to contemplate, making it bluer but more meaningful.

by Chun Su-jin

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