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Author Archives: Patrick St. Michel

New Mei Ehara: “Futa Nashi No Kare”

The deeper we get into the decade, the more remarkable Mei Ehara’s discography becomes. The singer/songwriter created some of the most bracing music in recent memory out of Japan under the name May.e, using just an acoustic guitar and her voice. She switched to the name Mei Ehara, and has added bit more to her sound — hinted at via a collab with Super VHS. And now comes a full-length album from Kakubarythm, the home of cero and, uh, Hoshino Gen’s Sakerock project.

“Futa Nashi No Kare” hints at a slight shift in musical attention for Ehara. Whereas her May.e work was as bare as it could get, this number features a pleasant mix of guitars (acoustic and electric) along with some chiming percussion. This would be easy-going for most, but is a big ramp up for Ehara. She’s channeling “new music” of the 1970s — think Haruomi Hosono’s breezier work pre-YMO, or Taeko Onuki’s ’70s output — which manages to be of the moment trend wise but also fitting for her. Yet in the end, it’s about her voice, allowed to move from smooth to forceful at her own pace. As long as that comes through, she’ll be fine. Listen above.

New D∀NGER D∀NGER: “About U”

It’s strange connecting dots after the fact. A few years back, D∀NGER D∀NGER was just an electro-pop outfit with one solid EP behind their syntax-shattering name. They inspired more Twitter conversations about punctuation than anything else, though that’s more the fault of writers than anything else. Three years later and Jay-Z is now JAY-Z, and D∀NGER D∀NGER returns with a compilation album of sorts coming out on Miles Apart Records. Biggest twist? Turns out this is the solo project of Koji Takagi, the lead singer of Pictured Resort. Which I wouldn’t have known in 2015, but which in 2017 completely explains the laid-back neon strut of “About U.” Saying it’s Pictured Resort filtered through synth-pop is a touch lazy, but also pretty accurate. Every note and word drips down, the song sounding like its sweating while wrestling with romance. Listen above.

What You Make Of It: Sayohimebou’s Virtua JD Harem $ Arena 3 Gou

New Masterpiece isn’t a label I’d associate with Japan’s wilder experimental side. The imprint dabbles in vaporwave and a few other hazed-out sounds, but in general they seem like a dance label fluctuating between high-energy and past-glazed hoppers. But the latest from Sayohimebou approaches the head-splitting wildness of Wasabi Tapes or Moyas, with a healthy sense of humor mixed in. Jumping off of the all-over-the-place rush of an earlier album put out via Business Casual this spring, Sayohimebou’s newest collection revels in sounds, the brief opening track alone an avalanche of bright synthesizer and assorted chaos. From there, the producer covers the Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls” (or, more appropriately, blends it up into something…different) and eventually plays around with the Family Mart melody…and then embraces weird muffled robo-rap soon after. It’s a trip, but like the best experimental music out of Japan right now, all that chaos falls into just the right place, and the end result is far more intriguing. Get it here, or listen below.

Broken Just Right: Bicco Beat

A challenge I’ve personally felt as of late is trying to find a balance between new music — you know, the daily “what new thing is new artist doing now, that is new” — and those pockets of sound that exist outside of any narrative, but are thrilling even without a hook. Nagoya’s Bicco Beat falls squarely into the latter category. A long-running project, but one very much under the radar, Bicco Beat put out a full-length album in 2006, while a few bits of live footage also exist online. Other than that…not much! But he recently shared a new song called “Bali,” a squiggly electronic number highlighting his broken-beat approach to constructing sneaky jams. “Bali” swelters, the disconnect between the tropical beat, bass and synthesizers making for a woozy number. Listen above.

Bicco Beat has a lot of great numbers on his SoundCloud, running from funky little “interludes” to delicate keyboard reflections (“Goodbye Cassini”). He also covers anime songs! and gets pretty far out there. Check out the hoppy breeze of “Major 7th Addicts’ below.

New Kiddish: “Kagaru”

Tokyo-based duo Kiddish have been releasing a steady stream of new music over the course of the year, but “Kagaru” stands out as a particularly absorbing number. Whereas many of their 2017 output has been of or adjacent to the laid-back trend present in rock (more Suchmos than Never Young Beach), “Kagaru” finds them covering a laid back groove with synthesizer washes and some nice keyboard drip-drops. It gives the song — otherwise moving forward over a strut-ready groove and the pair’s un-manipulated singing — a welcome glow, with certain sounds adding a nice unnerving feel to the song. Listen above.