As imugi 이무기, Auckland’s Carl Ruwhiu and Yery Chao, navigate the slipstream between the listless ennui of late 90s downbeat and trip-hop, silicon smooth synth-pop, and the undeniable bounce of modern R&B. Subtle, soft-focus, and techno-naturalistic, their cosmic-scale aesthetics effortlessly complement the duo’s considered thinking around music, culture, and identity in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“We are looking for an equal exchange with music, to feel from it all we have put into it,” Yery says, before expanding on imugi 이무기’s mission statement. “We put so much of ourselves into it and polish it into something that can reach out to people located anywhere and everywhere. Maybe it’s a form of communication. Aotearoa [New Zealand] is a multicultural and multilingual country, but its history and colonial systems have not always acknowledged or embraced that, in many spaces here it still isn’t fully seen or heard as it is. We want to embrace who we are, where we are. After spending so many years repressing and rejecting our cultural identity, we want to embrace the wholeness that others ignore or mock fully.”
Carl and Yery met in math class during their final year of high school in 2014. At the time, they’d both been developing their musical styles independently, and when friends suggested they make music together, something naturally clicked. Writing and recording songs became the bedrock of their friendship, and playing live inspired them to higher heights. “There’s no sense of binaries in how we work together,” Yery explains. “I’m not the singer, and he’s not the producer. It’s a constant flow, exchange and conversation.”
In 2017, they independently released their debut EP Vacasian, described by Polish music website BeeHype as one of the ten best releases of the year from Aotearoa New Zealand. Vacasian located them as part of a new generation of Auckland artists from immigrant communities. It also set them on a trajectory that led to performances at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival Auckland, Whammy Fest, Newtown Festival, and the 95bFM bCard launch party, as well as support slots over the last year alongside Jungle, Dbldbl x Trapjaw Kelpie, Cosmo’s Midnight, Hans. and Geoff Ong.
Working with their creative collaborator Casey Yeoh, they’ve crafted themselves a visual language as ethereal, surreal, and spacious as their soundworld, but as Yery’s thinking illustrates, they’re more than just aesthetes. “Yery puts a lot of ideas behind her writing, which has opened my mind up to things I was previously ignorant of,” Carl admits. “In turn, this gave my musical creations a purpose. It became so important to me to write music that would enhance and strengthen these ideas.”
This synergy hangs heavy over their new EP Dragonfruit, released through A Label Called Success, and created in collaboration with local rap upstarts Church & AP, musicians Daniel Waterson and Carlos Barnett, and studio engineers Josh Fountain and Ben Lawson. “We’ve always had this thought of how in our music, we plant seeds and care for them until the seeds grow tall enough to bear fruit, and the cycle repeats,” Yery says. “The songs reflect moments in the last couple of years where we felt some type of way. From feeling small, to feeling enormous. From resentment to love. From seriousness to fun. It’s funny how people can make something out of nothing at all.”