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Category Archives: Music

New Mom: “That Girl”

The year is still early —- at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself — but nearly three months have passed, which feels like a significant checkpoint. So far, my favorite album of the year from Japan comes courtesy of Saitama’s Mom, whose Baby Like A Paperdriver offers a dizzying and fun set of genre-skipping numbers, bridging a lot of disparate corners of the Japanese underground in the process. Yet they aren’t slowing down. Mom shared “That Girl” at the end of this weekend, and it shows a more direct side to their sound. It’s a pretty straightforward rap song, featuring a breezy piano arrangement as a base and a skittery beat propelling everything forward. No twists or turns, just a consistent backdrop for Mom to rap over. Listen above.

Dark Jinja Shares Dark Jinja Compilation I, Featuring Le Makeup, Yullippe, LSTNGHT And More

Labels and collectives gestate around all kinds of unifying theories, from identity to specific genre to shared interests. If Dark Jinja’s first compilation points at an overarching ethos, it’s that they love the dark and unnerving side of electronic music. Dark Jinja Compilation I is a masterclass in all things jittery, with nearly every inclusion here rumbling forward on machine-derived skitters and synthesizer melodies a few twists away from survival-horror-game territory. The familiar names here that got this one on our reader fit that bill — Yullippe serves up one of the more physical cuts here with the shuffling “Peg,” while Le Makeup keeps their everyday electronics sparse on “Lucky.” Like most great comps, this one is all about finding new names, although this time around that means finding out which artists creep you out the most. Bleed Boi’s “Imitation Song” warps techno into nightmare fuel, while others such as TAMA2000 and sssts go in a more minimal, mistier direction. A few more uplifting moments are sprinkled in — check LSTNGHT’s “Cracked Sky” for a late beam of light bursting through a brick roof — but this is a set for those who want music that seems just off. And here’s hoping that is the connecting vibe for Dark Jinja. Get it here, or listen below.

New ELLEH: “Everything You Ever Needed”

Tokyo duo ELLEH recently teamed up with London record label Rare Cut Records, and “Everything You Ever Needed” is their first release via them. It’s a larger platform, and fittingly the two’s latest offers a great entryway into their sound ahead of their next EP. “Everything You Ever Needed” features their liveliest music to date, with the group laying down a dance groove accented by digi-horn-blurts that add a melancholy. What sets it apart from previous ELLEH groovers is how the intensity of it builds up to a dizzying climax, the beat bursting open and those same electronic touches taking on a hopeful — downright ecstatic! — tone. ELLEH, though, still offsets these flashes of joy and the song’s general floor-focused gaze with lyrics that are more regretful. But that’s why this is a good intro for those who haven’t heard them before. Listen above.

New Ryuuta Takaki: Twist

Everything feels just off on Ryuuta Takaki’s new album, Twist. Vocal samples smear together, creating mismatched moments that often get pitched into unnatural territory on top of that. Takaki matches these disorienting stretches with music that’s equally unpredictable — beats sound like they are fading away (the title track) or hiding something sinister (“Your Ocean”). And of course, when the two elements come together right, Twist offers some of the year’s most dizzying tracks, highlighted by the out-of-time “Weak” and the menacing “Bad Blood.” Get it here, or listen below.

The Shape Of Things To Come: Harunemuri’s “Yume Wo Miyou”

Harunemuri doesn’t represent a new standard in Japanese pop music, but she does point towards a direction where a lot of things are starting to go. Last year’s Atom Heart Mother (really!!) offered a great introduction into what she’s all about, placing her rap-sing delivery in the spotlight against a mix of wonky beats and one instance of what sounds like an attempt at recreating Gesu No Kiwami Otome. She has creative and left-field-ready ideas for days, though the album could use a little tightening up, but if Daoko’s ascension to J-pop limelight left you letdown, that album should soothe the pain.

What’s striking about that album and now new song “Yume Wo Miyou” (off her full-length debut out next month) is how a lot of trends bubbling up in J-pop over the last few years collide here. As mentioned, Harunemuri’s most defining characteristic is how she sings, in a rap-crashing-with-sing-song style bringing to mind Daoko or — especially over the zippy piano lines here — KOM_I of Suiyoubi No Campanella. Yet then she barrels into the chorus, where she ramps up the intensity, approaching a shout. Not to get too comparison heavy, but it’s a bridge between Izumi Makura and Oomori Seiko. A lot of modern touches appear, but Harunemuri still manages to get her own personality through. I think a lot more artists are going to be doing the same in the near future. Listen above.