Album Review: Kim Ximya (XXX) and Sondaehyun (D.Sanders) – Moonshine (South Korea, 2017)

For a mixtape that supposedly takes its name from talking nonsense (and the illicit liquor), Moonshine’s title is almost a paradox. On the collaboration between Korean rapper Kim Ximya and American producer Sondaehyun, rather than create a fallacy, the two artists are at their most candid.

Usually, when the two are talked about, their names are an accessory to something more. With Kim Ximya, it’s about Korean hip hop duo XXX, of which he is a part. With Sondaehyun, who is more widely known as D.Sanders, it’s about his production for American rapper Isaiah Rashad. But with Moonshine, the two have their own limelight and do it with their own name.

This is particularly important for LA based Sondaehyun, who uses his Korean name on the mixtape, a nod to his half-Korean heritage. It also helps strengthen his Korean musical identity on top of singing to Korean label, BANA (Beasts and Natives Alike) last year.

But Moonshine also gives the two artists a chance to shine and not be overshadowed. They’re not part of a group, they’re not producing for others. Moonshine is theirs. So in a way, the mixtape is more like a band’s record in the sense that there is equal importance placed on both the rap and the production. But this doesn’t stop it from sounding like a hip hop record.

Sondaehyun creates a lush and atmospheric soundscape consistent throughout the mixtape. While varying slightly with hints of trap becoming stronger on tracks like ‘Closecall’, there’s an emphasis on soul and jazzy sampled fuelled beats. Like on the opening of ‘Process’ which sounds straight out of a 40s soundtrack. Or even on the lead single, ‘Flowers’, which certifies why the world needs more harp samples.

On the other hand, Kim Ximya’s rap, which flows seamless from English to Korean, is nasally and uncompromising as ever. Although with Kim Ximya, explicit lyrics are customary, Moonshine’s lyrical explicitness moves beyond sex and curses.

The opener ‘Moonshine’ sees Kim Ximya go off on a tangent, talking about the mixtape and musical ambitions in his softest and most intimate flow yet. While at the end, he utters in English “Anyways, welcome to Moonshine” almost as an afterthought as if he remembers someone is listening. It’s a perfect set up for the mood of the whole tape; an unfiltered reality.

On Moonshine, Kim Ximya and Sondaehyun give each other room to create a raw yet understated sense of reality. Sondaehyun adds warmth and intimacy to Kim Ximya’s rap. While Kim Ximya adds a stark intensity to Sondaehyun’s production. These two elements come together, creating a beautifully nuanced and unreserved mixtape, regardless if it’s really nonsense or not.

Listen: Process.

Moonshine is available to buy on iTunes and stream of Spotify now.