Album Review: White Ceiling / Black Dots Wandering Around by Parannoul

by: Josie Ronk

Last February, Seoul-based artist Parannoul’s album To See the Next Part of the Dream released. Bursting out of anonymity, Parannoul’s DIY shoegaze sound captivated listeners, cementing TSNPD as one of the most well received albums of 2021.

A year later, White Ceiling / Black Dots Wandering Around appeared on the artist’s Bandcamp. It is, in the artist’s own words, the ‘B-Side EP’ of TSNPD. While the album is mostly composed of outtakes, with many of the melodies, rhythms and patterns of the songs already familiar to Parannoul listeners, the release proves to be masterful in its own right.

Most songs start off simple, with sparse but catchy guitar melodies (“Escape”, “Someday”) or even the singer’s own voice (“Growing Pain”) leading you in. Layers of intricate and atmospheric guitar, drums, and vocals are added, giving many of the tracks an almost underwater feel. It’s messy and at times overwhelming, but it somehow works. Most of the time, the songs end abruptly, leaving you reeling from the ephemeral sounds you just experienced. Before you have time to recover, the next song kicks in.

The intro to “Soft Bruise” escalates at an almost worrying pace, like an airplane about to take off. Hints of uncertainty are buried in layer after layer of instrumentals and vocals as the song runs out its momentum. Unrelenting drums and droning vocals provide an atmospheric backdrop to the song’s punchy guitar riffs. Throughout the song’s 4 minutes and 30 seconds of runtime, it feels like it’s always yearning for something more—when the track abruptly fades to silence unresolved, it’s a punch in the gut.

“White Ceiling (demo)” shines on this album. Even in comparison to the finished product’s 10 minutes, the track is long, clocking in at 17 minutes and 31 seconds. The original’s alarm-clock intro is replaced by shimmering IDM, harpsichord piano and repetitive beats a-la-Drukqs. At around the 2 minute mark, the song kicks off. It feels brighter than the original, as if a few layers of noise have been stripped away, revealing the inner workings of the track. You can feel the mood shift between hopeful, atmospheric, and despondent. Layers build until each one is almost imperceptible, and the vocals get shoutier and more strained, fighting not to be drowned out in the chaos. When the song eventually reaches its peak and fizzles out, it still feels incomplete, tempting you to listen again.

Sure, White Ceiling / Black Dots Wandering Around is not the most polished album of 2022. The instrumentals are messy, the vocals often shaky, and the release itself is a B-Side, unfinished and still rough around the edges. But that’s not the draw of Parannoul’s music. White Ceiling / Black Dots Wandering Around is a window into one of the most mysterious yet memorable albums of all time, showcasing the passion which makes Parannoul so captivating.

Highlight tracks: 도피처 (Escape), 그곳에는 낭만이 있다 (Soft Bruise), 흰천장 (White Ceiling) (demo)

Genres: Shoegaze, indie rock, noise pop

RIYL: Asian Glow, Weatherday, Brave Little Abacus