The Two Koreas
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The Two Koreas

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | MAJOR

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | MAJOR
Band Alternative Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"FFWD review of Science Island"

The Two Koreas - Science Island
Randy Vicar/Last Gang

Meet The Two Koreas, an impetuous guttersnipe of a band that stares through your middle-class shop windows with Sonic Youth’s Dirty smeared all over its face. A shimmering opalescence of guitars announces the poptastic opening cut, “Scared Straight,” which delivers immediate gratification in the form of singer Stuart Berman’s crisply tailored vocals. Conjuring the great enunciators (and moaners) of the British Invasion, Berman’s polite nonchalance channels the indifferent divo Ian Curtis, with a dash of Jim Carroll’s street poetry and a ringmasterly David Bryne twist thrown in for good measure.

Marking s the Toronto-based outfit’s fourth release — showcasing a sound that’s self-described as “glacial garage beat muzik” — Science Island is a distinguished yet high-frequency testament to The Two Koreas’ eight-year effort to construct a rock-tastic new sub-genre. Synonymous with post-everything electro-strut, The Two Koreas’ previous albums, Main Plates and Classic Pies (2005), Altruists (2007) and 2008’s Sessions EP, paved the way for Science Island’s smooth plateaus and dizzying plunges. The righteous rhythm of “Midnight Brown” hits the throttle hard, setting a rapid monkey-see-monkey-do pace for the clockwork precision of “Hotel Christiania.” Elsewhere, a drone-drenched “Haunted Beach” recalls the surf-god glory of the B-52s, veritably quaking with wave after wave of tremulous keys supplied courtesy of the magic-fingered Jason Anderson. Safe to say, Ric Ocasek himself would lose his shit over The Two Koreas’ tension-fraught geekdom. That’s the thing about glaciers — sometimes they conceal volcanoes. - FFWD (Calgary)

"Exclaim! feature (March 2011)"

The Two Koreas Drop Science

By Vish Khanna

In the period since the Two Koreas released 2007's Altruists and finished their explosive new record, Science Island, guitarist Kieran Grant almost died. "I had symptoms that indicated I might have some serious plumbing problems," he says frankly. "I had a really bad, sudden case of ulcerative colitis. I ended up in the hospital for 45 days and had major surgeries. I'm back to normal now, or as normal as I'm ever gonna be, but I dropped from 160 pounds to, at my worst, 98 pounds. I didn't think I was gonna check out but I felt shocked, like it was happening to somebody else."

The peril impacted the Toronto band's style on Science Island (a destination Grant's kids made up); lead singer/rock critic Stuart Berman says they now play "glacial garage." "His joke about our sound early on was, 'pre-punk and post-punk with no punk in the middle,'" Grant explains. "Kinda '60s garage, Krautrock, post-punk, but no Sex Pistols or the Clash. The glacial thing is because we slowed down a lot with this record."

When Grant emerged from the hospital, the band wrote new songs, subtly reflecting his ordeal. "They were a little slower, meditative, and perhaps in the long run, more belaboured than anything we'd done," Grant says. "We were writing very slowly all of a sudden. Unbeknownst to me, Stuart tried to document my experience from his version of my perspective."

Though darker in tone, the Two Koreas' trademark wit and sharp pop-punk fury remain intact on Science Island, and with Grant conquering his illness, their songs ring out triumphantly. "Well, especially for Stuart because he gets 100 percent of the publishing," Grant clarifies. "And when the sheet music starts to sell? It's another feather in Stuart Berman's cap." - Exclaim!

"All Music Guide review of Science Island (March 2011)"

The Two Koreas is a band featuring not one, not two, but three professional rock critics in its lineup, and on their third album, 2011's Science Island, they sound just as smart and just as arch as you'd expect from a band of serious rock geeks. On the other hand, if you're expecting their cerebral side would get in the way of the band's physical attack, the good news is you'd be wrong; Science Island is the work of a band that isn't afraid to hit hard, and these 11 songs conjure up a buzzy web of sound that's physical and intellectual at once, generating chaos while holding all the pieces together with admirable precision. Guitarist Kieran Grant dominates this music, and while he's not doing anything remarkably fancy, he's a master at knowing when to drop some harsh chords or chrome-shiny riffs into the mix, while drummer David Gee and bassist Ian Worang hold down the backbeat with a ferocity and accuracy that strengthen both sides of the formula, and Jason Anderson's keyboards add subtle textures beneath the racket. Lead singer Stuart Berman is plenty wordy, but even though he makes it obvious he's a smart guy, he's also witty, full of snark, and has his feet firmly on the ground, like a bartender who reads Thomas Frank in between pouring shots. Producer Jon Drew gives Science Island a sound that's big and just clean enough to let the rough edges stay visible, which is important for a band that puts as much stock in 'texture and tone as these folks. And Science Island's songs work brilliantly either individually or as a whole; in a time when so many folks insist iTunes has killed off the concept of the album, the Two Koreas have put together a set of tunes that sound even stronger when heard in one sitting, and though that's a notion that might occur to a handful of rock critics, it's takes real rock & roll musicians to make it actually work, and this album confirms these guys are even better at making music than they are at writing about it. -

"Montreal Mirror interview (March 2011)"

Critical mass
Toronto’s Two Koreas work for the weekend
March 10, 2011

“People have a certain bias against critics in bands,” says Two Koreas frontman Stuart Berman, aka online editor at Toronto’s Eye Weekly (which has also employed the band’s guitarist Kieran Grant and keyboardist Jason Anderson as freelance film and music critics), as well as one of the creative writers at Pitchfork. “When you’re a critic, people say, ‘Well who are you to judge? You’ve never been on stage,’ and then when you actually do get on stage, people are like, ‘Oh, this is just a joke, they’re just a bunch of critics.’ We’re the underclass of the rock ’n’ roll world.”

Berman’s thesis may have been truer when the band first climbed onto Toronto stages in 2003, but two albums and an EP later, the Two Koreas have earned some respect. Their new LP, Science Island, broadens their “electric jangular beat muzik,” with bigger production by Jon Drew (Fucked Up, Tokyo Police Club). They’re calling the new material “glacial garage,” a crystallization of their Fall/Pavement-inspired jams that has won the favour of their hometown peers and competitors, as well as some American tastemakers, thanks to their Chicago-based publicist. Berman admits that the band has benefited from their contacts within the media, the industry and the Toronto scene, and that it’s those advan­tages that tend to tick off critics of bands of critics.

“At the same time, people aren’t just throwing these gigs at us as a novelty—I think they know that we can open up for a band like Wire and hold our ground.”

Amid Berman’s latest batch of abstract, spoken/sung musings and observations are allusions to an extreme case of ulcerative colitis that Grant fought off in 2008 and 2009, los­ing over 60 pounds and spending nearly two months in the hospital in the process.

“I tend to write after travelling and noting strange customs, and in this case, I spent a couple of months going to a hospital almost every day, so that imagery shows up on a few tracks,” Berman says, referring to “Disco Slave Songs” and “Diamond Geezer.” The latter also includes direct quotes from weird text messages written by Grant under the influ­ence of morphine.

“It was a really hard thing to watch him go through,” Berman adds. “Fortunately, he has fully recovered; he’s back in fighting shape.”

Grant’s young kids Isobel and Hamish also influenced the record, providing its name, along with two song titles/ideas, in a form written for fun by Isobel and filled out by Hamish (it’s printed on the inside of the CD sleeve). “Haunted Beach” also originated with an observation Isobel made in northern Ontario, coupled with the band’s “brief obses­sion with ghost-hunting shows—we go goth for about five minutes.”

Despite all this fruitful child labour (“most bands do it for the kids but we get the kids to do it for us”), Berman warns that “babies are soon gonna cramp our style.” Drummer David Gee and co. are expecting their second child while Anderson is anticipating he and his lady’s first. Children aside, the band members’ jobs don’t allow for weeks off for inten­sive touring, so the Two Koreas, modelling themselves after “weekender” acts like Mission of Burma, are all about short bursts of regional action.

“We’re just trying to focus our efforts on having the best weekends possible.” ¦



LP - Science Island (Randy Vicar Records/Last Gang/Universal, 2011)
EP - Sessions (Unfamiliar Records/Sonic Unyon, 2008)
LP - Altruists (Unfamiliar Records/Scratch, 2007)
LP - Main Plates & Classic Pies (independent, 2005)


Feeling a bit camera shy


After three years, two recording sessions and one near-death experience, The Two Koreas return with a new full-length album, Science Island, produced by Jon Drew (Fucked Up, Tokyo Police Club).

Formed in Toronto circa 2003, The Two Koreas gleefully polarized their hometown with a sound they dub “electric jangular beat muzik,” a retro-futurist amalgam of ’60s garage-rock primitivism, ’70s Krautrock propulsion, ’80s post-punk dynamism, ’90s indie-rock irreverence and post-millennial attention deficiency. Over the past half-decade, they’ve been invited to share stages with avant-rock icons (Wire, Pavement's Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg), blog-buzzed faves (Japandroids, Love Is All, A Place to Bury Strangers, Monotonix) and Toronto-scene royalty (Owen Pallett, Constantines, Metric) alike.

The band’s 2007 sophomore release “Altruists” peaked at No. 2 on the CBC Radio 3 cross-Canada chart and earned two nominations for the station’s annual Bucky Awards (for Best Lyric and Best Bassline — the two most important categories, natch); the follow-up 2008 EP Sessions was compiled from live-to-air recordings originally broadcast on XM satellite radio station The Verge, who nominated the band in the Best Artist category for the 2008 Verge Music Awards. In 2009, the Sessions track "54 Is the New 27" reached No. 1 on CBC Radio's Bande a Part channel.

Science Island marks a further evolution of The Two Koreas sound into a new sub-genre to be henceforth known as “glacial garage,” or GG for short (as in, “this album is sooooo GG!” Or, “I’m thinking of moving to Williamsburg to start a post-GG band” — by all means, feel free to drop it into casual conversations and/or use it to break awkward silences). Glacial garage is, as its very name attests, garage rock encased in ice: a frozen tableaux of ray-gunned punk and strobe-lit psychedelia, captured in a state of permanent combustion, floating for all eternity.