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Category Archives: Music

Digi Maw: KOHH’s “I Don’t Work (IA Version)”

I don’t know why the fuck this exists, but god bless whoever gave it the greenlight. Looks like it was first made back in December…produced by TeddyLoid…for a phone app. Well, sure, but this is the real arrival…

KOHH, far and away the most well known rapper in Japan and abroad at the moment, shared his song “I Don’t Work” a few months ago via brain-melting web page, and it is…a KOHH song. While I get dude’s significance — and believe there are far more forgettable rappers in Japan — most of what he’s released hasn’t really clicked with me. If I wanted to listen to someone trying to replicate Atlanta hip-hop…I think I’d just listen to Atlanta hip-hop. I think it would be good for him if he tried stretching out a bit.

KOHH, for me, has a lot in common with Vocaloid, the singing-synthesizer software that birthed a whole genre of music in Japan. While this instrument has produced some interesting pop and otherwise, the bulk of it is simply bedroom artists creating boring rock music with Hatsune Miku. If I wanted to listen to boring J-Rock I’d…well, I wouldn’t. I wish more producers would stretch it out a bit.

Enter “I Don’t Work (IA Version),” KOHH’s single rendered into digital bat shittery by the vocal pack/ avatar IA. Maybe it is KOHH revealing his Niconico obsession, maybe he’s an irony boy — either way, this is such an interesting and strange thing, the straightforward voice of IA rapping (kinda) over what sounds like the underground music from Mario Brothers. What strikes me about this is…it is one of the most outfield uses of Vocaloid in recent memory, offering a different approach to rapping than, like, this. For a digital tool that still feels vastly under explored, “I Don’t Work” shows an actual bit of daring, resulting in something that really grabs your attention, even if you ignore the dabbing cartoons. Listen above.

New Tofubeats: “What You Got”

Fantasy Club is right around the corner, and the latest hint at what Tofubeats has planned for his latest comes via “What You Got,” a dance-pop number that mutates frequently across its six-plus minutes run. It’s a shifty number that slowly adds elements — including strings, which seem to be popping up a lot recently in his work — before diving into a Vocoder-smothered rap break, making this kind of an inverse “Stakeholder.” Yet despite this and other twists, he coaxes out a consistent groove, and as nutty as it gets, a very clear core remains. Listen above.

New Miu Mau: Kioku To Heroine

Trio Miu Mau are back with a two song set titled Kioku To Heroine, a set that teases fidgetiness but really highlights the groups pounding focus. Opener “Sukunai Kioku” highlights this best, as the opening rush of synthesizer rippling across the song hints that this will be nervy, herky-jerky stuff. Yet it always stays centered, with guitar, drums and the vocals locked in and giving it force. The album is rounded out by two remixes by Silkscreen, who puts a slight dance feel (albeit one much more unpredictable than the originals) on each. Get it here, or listen below.

New Mariana In Our Heads: “Anemone”

Sailyard has been having a sneaky good year. The independent label started just last year, but they’ve already put out great releases from Luby Sparks and Pictured Resort…the latter act getting a fair amount of attention (and, pure observation on my part, seems to have some following in Hong Kong and China? They are playing an indie-pop fest there soon, and when I went earlier this year, they are the only Japanese artist I heard or saw on sale at a record shop that wasn’t Ayumi Hamasaki or Perfume).

Now comes a new one from the dreamy outfit Mariana In Our Heads. “Anemone” is one to soak in, the group laying down gentle guitar melodies and synth glow. It never even threatens to break into a jog, content to move forward like it has something else on its mind. The final touch comes courtesy of the vocals, which add the sweetness and longing that made the Kyoto band’s earlier work stick around in our heads. Listen above.

New Hiroki Yamamura: “Snow White”

Osaka’s Hiroki Yamamura returns with “Snow White,” and the producer is still moving at the zippy pace he excels at so well. The song subtly incorporates elements of juke music that Yamamura has explored over the last few years — mostly when it comes to the beat — but the attention falls mostly on the whistle-like sounds and chanting that drive the song forward. Like all of the highlights in his catalog, it’s about making all of these elements work with the fast-paced tempo. Listen above.