After a year that saw the act change from a duo into a solo project, 10cm has returned with a new album to greet fans. Following Yoon Cheol Jong's departure from the group due to health issues, fans were uncertain of the future of 10cm, but member Kwon Jeong Yeol made his way back to the Korean music scene triumphantly with the '4.0' album. The work is mature and looks forward to the future yet to come rather than trying to re-create the past.
'4.0' kicks off with the track "Everything," introduced by a tender acapella section that truly highlights Kwon Jeong Yeol's new context as a solo artist. The track is accompanied by the sounds of an upright bass, giving it a different feel than your usual acoustic ballad. Potent and cathartic, "Everything" leads off the album like the opening words of a love letter.
Follow-up track "Pet" is decidedly more on the fun side, with a walking bassline and chirpy vocals making for an inviting and playful atmosphere. Hand-claps and the gentle scratching of an acoustic guitar add texture to the song, and a flute-accompanied section towards the middle makes for a pleasant surprise.
Title track "Phonecert" amps up the chipper energy once again and serves as an excellent reminder of Kwon Jeong Yeol's prowess with melodies that challenge his range. Even though the track is characteristically light on percussion, it has a pulse that's almost enough to get up and dance to.
The album continues with the song "Stars," a light and wistful ditty that would sound right at home playing in a coffee shop or cafe on a bright afternoon. 10cm makes music that, while consistently inoffensive, can soundtrack a variety of situations with the charm of a romantic comedy soundtrack. This point is driven home by "Hotel Room," a song that's decidedly much less sexy than its title, even taking a break to feature a trumpet solo.
Once the album starts drawing towards a close with "Island," listeners get a sense that 10cm isn't about stirring the pot so much as excelling at a few key talents with precision and reliability. There's an almost scientific quality to how well this act does with ballads and mid-tempo acoustic jaunts, and if you have any interest in lightly picked acoustic guitar or hearing jazzy sounds in Korean music, 10cm is sure to please. Album closer "Pause" reiterates this by serving as a master class in devastation, almost as if meant to communicate the feelings felt during the last gasps for a relationship.
In 30 short but heartfelt minutes, 10cm treats the listener to a series of compositions that are at once both charming and thought-provoking. The music is warm, rich with human qualities that can't be imitated by production software. Although this means it doesn't contain the bells and whistles used to excite on your average K-pop record, 10cm is not here to be average, and they bring music to the table fit for the mature and refined listener. If you can find the brilliance in balladry and don't mind taking a break from synth-pop and hip-hop dominated albums, this is certainly the record for you. 10cm might not have something for everyone, but they're everything to the "someones" they've got.