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Shubostar rising: interstellar explorations with the cosmically-charmed creator

"I've always been fascinated by space" – we travel deep into the Korean producer's celestial sound

  • Patrizio Cavaliere
  • 24 May 2021

Shubostar has been making some seriously impressive waves since she began to emerge as a production force in 2018. The South Korean producer and DJ has released cosmically-charmed music on ultra-credible labels including Wonder Stories, Ano Ano, Nein, Ritovan – as well as her own Uju imprint – and her sound continues to win her admirers from across the esoteric dance underground. She's performed DJ sets at iconic festivals including Burning Man, and has recently contributed mixes to streams and radio shows for the likes of Circoloco, Resident Advisor, and Permanent Vacation – dextrously flexing between subtly varying sounds and styles, but all the while maintaining a gravitational foundation in the psychedelic-tinged textures of a particularly astrally focused sonic realm.

“I define my musical style as Cosmic disco,” Shubostar tells Mixmag Asia. “The bass and drums are similar to Italo disco – like a driving bassline and strong snare sound combined with more techno elements. I know in the past there was a genre called cosmic disco already, but I needed to use this word because it is just the perfect word to make people understand my style. People who listened to my set used to say 'it was a beautiful trip', and I always try to make my set like a space journey.” The intoxicating melodies and heavy rhythms of cosmic and Afro cosmic disco born out of Italy's Romagna Riviera during the '80s have enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, with pioneering artists like Daniele Baldelli enjoying cult status among followers of the sound. For Shubostar, paying due respect to the origins shares equal importance with a desire to evolve the genre – combining its roots with a forward-facing outlook. “I think bringing the history and adding contemporary elements to make it special can lead the sound into the future,” she says.

From the growling staccato bass of her 'Disco Star Machine' collaboration with Daniel Monaco to the overt disco-funk of her remix of Panthera Krause's 'J'ai Envie De Toi', Shubostar's releases are embodied with a rich and sometimes idiosyncratic musicality, and it's of little surprise that her journey into music started at a young age. She studied piano while at elementary school before her mum taught her to play the guitar during middle school – and the progression appears to have continued throughout her academic life. “I was majoring in computer game programming in high school and produced game music by myself because we needed some background music,” she says. “Then, in university, I met a DJ friend and I started to play music with him.” The appeal of subterranean sounds was steadily growing, and it wasn't long before she began promoting events and self-releasing her productions. “I started to run my parties in order to play bigger places, and I built my own label to release my demos,” she says. “I don’t remember when exactly I decided to immerse myself in underground music culture, but music was slowly getting to be a bigger and bigger part of my life.”

Today, Shubostar is fully immersed in the cosmic underground, and some of the standout labels currently moving her include Dischi Autunno, Ombra International, and Aeon, alongside the ever-reliable Italo Moderni compilation series. When discussing her biggest musical influences, one particular Norse disco heavyweight quickly springs to mind. “Definitely Lindstrom,” she exclaims. “I’ve always wanted to make music like him, so I checked all his interviews and listened to his music all day. It's because of him that I refer to my sound as cosmic disco.” There are many more whose work she admires, with some creators making a strong enough impression to inspire requests for remix collaborations. “I have too many favourite artists, some of whom I already invited to produce remixes for my label – such as Rigoploar, Doctr, James Rod, K-Effect, Zombies in Miami, and Panthera Krause. Everyone has their own different definitions of cosmic disco, so I invited my favourite artists to show people how I describe the sound.”

Shubostar launched her Uju label back in 2018, and it was initially designed as an outlet for her productions. “After I started living in Mexico I got back to producing music a lot. When I had demos ready I would send to several labels, but some of them didn’t answer me back, and some told me the release will be scheduled at least a year later.” Not content with the prospect of waiting on the often protracted timelines of some of the labels in question, she decided to take things into her own hands. Following advice from a friend who suggested she set up her own imprint, in 2018 Uju was born, and when it came to a theme for the project, the outer reaches one again provided the inspiration. “I’ve always fascinated by space, so I choose the name 우주 (Uju) – which is the Korean word for ‘space’ – as the name of the label.” A friend designed a logo for the project, and to design the gloriously eye-catching sleeve art, Shubostar turned to the skills of her talented painter friend, Daryung Kim. “Her art is in a Korean traditional style, but also gives us the feeling of loneliness in space,” she says.

Despite spending much of the last few years exploring far-flung corners of Planet Earth, she's currently riding out the ongoing pandemic in Korea. “My last gig before the pandemic was at Pitch festival in Australia,” she says. “After I came back to Mexico, quarantine started, so I stayed at home all day all week and just focused on making new music. But the situation was getting worse every day in Mexico, so my parents asked me to come back to Korea.” With no gigs on the horizon thanks to worldwide venue closures, she headed back to Korea content in the knowledge that she could continue her production quest happily there. Having previously lived overseas for an extended period, it took a little time for Shubostar to readapt to her home environment. “I lived abroad for five years, so at first I didn’t have many friends to hang out with,” she says. “However, I made lots of new friends. On Weekdays I made music, and on weekends I hung out with friends – like normal office workers.” As well as blossoming new friendships, the enforced time spent back in Korea led to new and unexpected discoveries. “I’d never spent much time in the countryside in Korea, but this time I have been able to travel a lot, and I realised that there is plenty of beautiful nature in Korea. The pandemic is a horrible situation for all, but on the other side, I was lucky to rediscover my beautiful country.”

Korea has birthed its fair share of talented and, in some cases, high-profile artists in recent years, and Shubostar feels that the country's underground music scene is primed to deliver more jewels into the international dance community. “The scene in South Korea grew very fast because many DJs are working hard to grow the scene,” she says. “I left more than five years ago, but I can see plenty of great, brand new DJs emerging. Also, several new name producers and labels are coming to prominence, and I’m so looking forward to watching the underground music scene in South Korea when this pandemic is over.”

Elsewhere in Asia, Shubstar has enjoyed spending time in the unique, sun-soaked tropical heat of Thailand, where she happily embraced the local subaquatic music scene – as well as the local cuisine. “I can’t explain life in Thailand without mentioning food,” she says. “The food is delicious and varied but also cheap, like fresh and seasonal tropical fruits. My favourite was seafood, so I always loved to visit the seaside to play music.” She feels a combination of factors help power the country's surprisingly effervescent electronic music community, with the steamy environment playing a particularly vital role. “The underground scene in Thailand is beautiful,” she says. “There are plenty of outdoor events and festivals. Because of the warm weather, people are always happy, and there are lots of tourists so the energy is very high. That’s why the underground scene is well organised, I guess.”

It's clear that, despite the chaos caused by the Covid-19 spectre, Shubostar hasn't wasted any time when it comes to her productions, and, looking forward, she has a string of releases on the horizon for fans to get excited about. EPs are on the way via Prins Thomas' always on-point Internasjonal label, as well as from the steadily growing Uju. Remixes and compilation entries are forthcoming, too, on Moscoman's Disco Halal, Dischi Autonno, and again on Internasjonal. In early June, her mystical eastern meditation 'AYA' arrives via Curses' 'Next Wave Acid Punk' compilation on revered Belgian label, Eskimo, and the deeply hypnotic track is already generating promo heat with taste-maker selectors. Aside from her music, it's also apparent that the time spent confined to her home nation hasn't entirely dampened her appetite for travel, as she's currently planning a trip to visit her sister in Canada, before relocating to the subcultural melting pot of Berlin later this year. However, the prospect of settling down in one place does allow for some studio related advantages that have previously eluded her grasp. “I’ve always been interested in analogue synthesizers, so this year after I settle down I will start to collect them,” she says. “In the last five years, I lived in three different countries and seven different houses. Moving was my life, so having lots of analogue gear was high on the hog for me. But. I’m already familiar with the digital setup, so my next musical journey would be with analogue synthesizers. Stay tuned!”

Our eyes and ears are fixed firmly on the stratosphere in an attempt to chart Shubostar's dazzling and gravity-defying trajectory. We've got a strong feeling that this is an artist on the rise, and you can join her on a wild ride thanks to this exquisite mix she recorded exclusively for Mixmag Asia:

'Next Wave Acid Punk' featuring Shubostar's 'AYA' is out June 4 on Eskimo Records, you can listen and buy it here

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