Liyou conceptualized Welfare as a tackle Korean p’ansori, a minimalist fashion of folks opera constructed completely round easy drum rhythms and expressive, winding vocalizations. In p’ansori, as a result of there are virtually no different devices, the performer drives the tune utilizing the cadence of their voice, with every inflection serving to to inform just a little bit extra of the story. Likewise, Welfare casts Liyou’s text-to-speech bot because the album’s unnerving narrator, utilizing small wrinkles in its supply to uncover peculiar new emotional textures. On “I’m Going to Remedy,” after a nervous intro by which Liyou admits that they haven’t advised their mom they’re seeing a therapist, the automated voice seems in opposition to complete silence, recounting a painful reminiscence of Liyou’s mom: “You advised me after I was six years outdated, ‘What sort of fucking boy cries due to X, Y, and Z?’” Even coming from an A.I. voice, that “fucking” conveys a lot terrible pathos and bitterness. Shortly after, over a mattress of what seems like warped church organ floating in unfavorable area, a human voice representing Liyou’s father enters the image coated in booming distortion, uttering, “You must get him in test.” All these moments play like dramatizations transcribed immediately from Liyou’s life, introduced right here by means of the rawest, most primitive music software program accessible.
Every passage of Welfare subverts and expands on the final. After the hauntingly beautiful piano ballad “Unnie”—the place, in a trembling whisper, Liyou makes use of their precise voice to wrestle with defining themselves in opposition to Korean gender stereotypes—“Who You Feed” arrives like an unholy demon delivery, briefly switching the album’s POV to Liyou’s dad and mom and casting Liyou themself as the true monster. “I’m getting larger,” a childlike digital voice proclaims over a disturbing collage of moist, respiratory mouth noises. “And greater,” it repeats, getting deeper every time. Simply when it looks as if the temper can’t get any extra unsettling, the voice gutturally proclaims, “I’m getting uninterested in you”; straight away, Liyou takes a magnifying glass to the horrors of parenthood, their very own dad and mom’ hardships with elevating a baby and treating them with the identical sense of weird dread. By the point the album reaches its ending with “Some Type of Kindness,” it looks like Liyou has realized tips on how to negotiate this complicated familial love, accepting its embrace and recognizing its limits in the identical humbled breath.
After such a dense, pointedly profound work, Apply sounds extra diffuse. The place Welfare performs like a four-part miniature theater piece, Apply’s sketches are everywhere, like Polaroids capturing unusual day-to-day moments. Recorded over a number of weeks whereas Liyou was visiting household in Seattle and their grandmother was concurrently affected by a critical sickness, Apply feels much less like a grandiose assertion of intent and extra just like the work of an artist piecing collectively their grief within the second, turning over transient conversations and flashes of reminiscence to uncover hidden meanings.