Peggy Gou, the universal DJ
Peggy Gou’s mixes seem to unlock something strange inside a person. Even on the first note of each song, the movements and repetition in her music are familiar, like every sound was waiting dormant inside of the listener, ready to be pulled out and collected into Gou’s unique mix of techno, house and disco. From bouncy beats to ethereal ambient soundscapes, her approach to production and live mixing is unlike most music today; she’s a master at creating a certain mood and scene, playing with music not only for her audience, but also for her own enjoyment. In a funny way, the South Korean DJ’s approach is very universal ― Gou doesn’t submit herself to the rules and regulations of any certain subgenre of electronic music, she simply vibes.
It’s this headstrong attitude that makes her music so inherently catchy, inviting her audience to move in whatever way they like through a jungle of sound. Gou is one of a growing number of female DJs who have established their careers in the Berlin club scene, developing her oeuvre among greats like Nina Kraviz and Helena Hauff. Despite this, she labels her own music as a kind of “K-House,” referring to her unique sensibilities as an East Asian woman in a largely European scene. But somehow, her international sensibilities ― Gou grew up in South Korea, moved to London at 14 for school and is now based in Berlin ― make the DJ’s music that much more universal. The appeal of this familiarity with many different audiences is arguably the reason for meteoric rise in the last three years or so, culminating in a fashion line, over 100 shows a year across the globe, her own label Gudu Records and a devoted fanbase dedicated to “living the ‘Gou’ life.”
For Gou, the proof in the pudding is this internationality, with her two most popular singles, “Starry Night” and “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” featuring almost exclusively Korean lyrics. Sure, the chorus of “Starry Night” is in English, echoing “Ocean, night, star, song, moment / Ocean, starlight, moment, now, us” into the bass-heavy mix. But those words are as much percussion as the hi-hats and snares woven expertly throughout the song, serving as one small part of a larger picture. What really matters in Gou’s music is the feeling that each mix produces, what images it conjures in the listener’s mind, and the way they call your body to move whether you’re in a club or in the library. Her fingerprints are all over every part of every song, never a beat out of place. Listening to Peggy Gou is like looking at a tapestry, in some ways, both awed by the intricacy of the art and called to look further into its many threads.
Her music is the first techno-house hybrid that seems truly approachable to the layperson in our times, disregarding the proven commercial success of something like EDM or dubstep in lieu of her own unique musical sensibilities. It’s Gou’s individualism that makes the DJ’s mixes so integrated into her listener’s lives ― we can all see ourselves in her music, our heartbeats replicated by the BPM in her most popular songs, our footsteps slowly meshing with the pulsing bass as we walk along the street. You could say that about many electronic artists, yes, but Gou has mastered it. She deserves every praise that has flooded both niche and general channels in the years since her debut in London. Each mix of hers seems to reach inside the listener and pull out a rhythm that they were never aware of, controlling them like a marionette through an expert blend of sound, emotion and pure fun. Her fans’ homemade t-shirts say “Just Gou It,” and it’s easy to hop on the bandwagon of Gou-ing it too.