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Future Shift: Takaryu’s Resources

Producer Takaryu’s first full-length album Resources doubles as a snapshot of the many ways electronic music in Japan has gone over the last five years. Takaryu has been around since about 2014, though the bulk of work they’ve shared in that time has been remixes alongside one mini-album. So Resources gathers songs that have appeared over the last few years alongside new ones, partially explaining the mish-mash of sound. There’s fidgety IDM intersecting with filtered singing on “Null (version)” and straight hip-hop beats (“Relationships/Reprise” and “Rain”), with fidgety future bass even popping up via “Refusal.” Takaryu works wonders when guest vocalists appear on his tracks. My gateway into this album was the appearance of Megumi Wata, an artist I hadn’t heard from in quite some time. The album peaks a little early with the dizzying “Left-field,” a number that makes great use of Wata’s slower delivery…and isn’t afraid to warp it into something totally different come the hook. “Static Thought” leans closer to Wata’s own releases, featuring a sparse backdrop for her to deliver her sing-speak. Nobody quite matches her style, but Annabel adds a nice pop to the springy title track, while Evo+ brings energy to the 808-centered “F.W.P.” Listen on your preferred streaming service, or check some samples below.

Modern Groove: New Songs From HiRO.JP And Frasco

Funk, boogie, acid jazz, city pop, even a little disco — all these styles have come back into vogue in some way or another in Japan. It has mainly been spurred on by young bands, some raised on Jamiroquai and others smelling an opportunity. Yet plenty of smaller acts have come around to it as well, and tonight let’s spotlight two. The first is producer HiRO.JP, who offers up a crystalline vision of ’80s boogie on “L’amour Disparu.” More so than most, HiRO.JP really goes for the retro feel, to the point this feels way closer to the actual instrumental struts lining ’80s Japanese boogie albums than the imagined versions of today. Listen above.

Next comes the latest from duo Frasco, who really need to get an album out. “Folding Chair” locks into a groove and chooses to ride that out rather than explore busier corners, as they did on their last couple of songs. Yet it proves to be a solid choice, as Frasco find a nice, sparse drive that builds up to a busier hook, featuring a slight electric hum around the singing and some woozy touches. Listen below.

New Mecanika: “Explorer”

Shiga-based producer Mecanika loves to explore the texture of noise, which makes “Explorer” an apt mission statement. It’s a rumbling number, one that finds an artist who was always pushing towards maximalism committing, loading the brief song up with whirring synthesizer notes and brighter keyboard notes in the mold of post-Nakata electro-pop. Yet instead of build a pop song, Mecanika crafts a persistent electronic number you can practically feel. Get it here, or listen below.

Relax Zone: Poivre’s Hammered

Plenty of artists can create minimal, relaxing beats that work best as background music — an entire genre of anime-girl-doing-things-over-beats type streams exist around such music. Producer Poivre approaches relaxed sounds a bit differently on Hammered. Nothing on this nine-track album ever really pushes into particularly energetic territory — digging into Poivre’s history reveals plenty of collections that do, including some juke comps — but enough happens on every song to keep the focus on the music rather than settle for study noise. Check the skittering beats beading down the acoustic guitar notes on “77” or the warped effects puncturing the otherwise chill sounds of “Bubble.” Sit back and enjoy, but expect to focus on the details. Get it here, or listen below.

Out Of Reach: Waater’s Waater EP And “All My Time”

How important is accessibility to music? Well, in 2018, it’s vital if you want to reach a wide audience which…duh, but there was a time a band could start small and build up. Scarcity could even work in a group’s favor! Not today, though, where being available on a digital platform is necessary for those wanting greater attention. That makes the decision not to embrace such platforms all the more powerful though — bands that, say, opt to just play live shows around Tokyo might be limiting their commercial range…but maybe they don’t give a shit either? And there is something wonderful about that in an age where a lot of music can feel like baseball analytics.

Indie-rock band Waater occupies a weird space in this discussion. They don’t really use sites such as SoundCloud or Bandcamp all the much, though on the prior they do feature a recent song called “All My Time,” a feedback stained skipper that hints at their underground leanings. Maybe they are one of those bands that mostly plays live shows up in Sendai (where they are at least partially based)? Here’s the twist — they’ve also jumped into the streaming depths, with their new self-titled EP appearing (it seems) only on Apple Music and Spotify. And that eight-minute-long set is a great example of Japanese indie-pop, swift numbers centered around catchy hooks, a good continuation of what DYGL have been up to. Yet the songs on this EP are also more cleaned up, lacking a bit of the fuzz found on other versions. I kind of wish I could just sit back and enjoy the music, but I’m just as interested in the approach.