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New Snail’s House: Ordinary Songs 4

The Ordinary Songs series serves as Snail’s House’s state of the union, of sorts. While the most popular “kawaii” producer in Japan at the moment goes off in all sorts of directions, Ordinary Songs is them at their most cuddly, constructing pleasant playroom-ready melodies from an assortment of synths, bells and other toy-chest-ready noises. The latest installment doesn’t push into new territory, but rather highlights how refined Snail’s House has gotten. Even the genial opener “Welcome” features more depth, with carefully placed chimes that make the fanfare all the more inviting. “Hello” adds speak-n-spell vocals to generate a slight tension before everything slows down a bit, while highlight “Sunday” pushes a variety of sounds and interlocking melodies together to create a deceptively simple cut. Get it here, or listen below.

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New Gokou Kuyt: AM 2:22

AM 2:22 lasts just under eight minutes, and that brief time is all you really need to get a good sense of what rapper Gokou Kuyt is all about. More concise than last year’s #teendreamtape, his latest feels like a late night dispatch, short and at times fluttery beats giving enough space for Kuyt’s monotone to spread out. The intensity and drama found in an artist like Sleet Mage’s music is swapped out for a more reflective isolation, even if it’s more of an exercise in how words sound than what they mean (see “Twenty Water Bed”). It can get a bit more energetic, as on “Asani Neru,” but even that one finds Kuyt sounding head down. Rounding out is Kuyt’s take on “Iffy,” which approaches being straight cover at times but takes on a new character thanks to a huskier delivery. Listen above.

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New Haruno: Filia

It’s startling how sweet the singing on Haruno’s first full-length album Filia can sound. Last year’s lovely Flower’s Laugh had similarly pretty vocals, but those came courtesy of a real human — this time around, Haruno uses Vocaloid technology for all ten songs here. Yet despite (or, maybe because of) a visible electric hum surrounding every syllable, the voice on Filia flows just right with the dreamy and often understated music around it, doing enough to blend in while also disrupting my own theory that synthesized singing works best in busy electro-pop. Filia is delicate but never brittle, opener “In Between” skipping off and offering one of the most upbeat moments here. Usually, Haruno constructs spacier songs, like the heartbeat-paced “Room” or piano-meets-vinyl-crackle daydream of “Deep Coma.” They are thoughtful, melancholy songs with a slight tension thanks to those digi voices. And Filia builds up to a dizzying climax, highlighted by the closing double punch of “Paradise In Lost” and “Shien.” Get it here, or listen below.

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New Frasco: “Dramatic”

Duo Frasco keep up their prolific pace in 2018 with “Dramatic,” their latest digital single. And like the numbers before it, “Dramatic” finds them shifting things up ever so slightly, highlighting the pair’s ability to bring in various elements under a funk-pop umbrella. “Dramatic” features a pronounced electronic bounce, which gives it extra force than other Frasco songs from the last two months. Yet it also comes with a vocal delivery not far removed from what Etsuko Yakushimaru does, extending even to a word selection seemingly focused on sound over meaning. It all builds to a gooey hook giving way to some looser sections. Listen above.

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New Animal Hack: Gift

There is a blurriness to electronic duo Animal Hack’s new album Gift that helps it stand out a bit from other artists in the same zone as them. Their latest release features plenty of hallmarks of contemporary electronic music in Japan — see the big release of opener “Body,” the breezy portions of “Plastic Night” — but the edge feature something a bit more disorienting, a bit more deep-into-the-night-with-no-sleep. Animal Hack’s approach to playing around with vocal samples drives this feeling the most, as numbers such as “Letter” find voices smeared into one another, giving the song a disorienting atmosphere. Same goes for “Inside,” which sounds vaguely familiar (the sample is dancing on my mind, what is it!?) but gets tweaked enough to turn woozy. Best of all is “WIMM?,” a soft number interrupted by these jarring crashes and screams — it’s less about tension and more about just letting sound rip a song apart. Listen above.

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