Singer/songwriter Lulu and Trekkie-Trax-associate Mavis Bacon have come together to form a new group called The Paradise Gym. They already released an EP a couple months back, but now comes the sweet “Matenrou,” a song highlighting all the strengths of this project. Similar to her work with Mikeneko Homeless late last year, The Paradise Gym puts the focus on her voice, and plays up intimacy and closeness over floor-filling nuttiness. Mavis Bacon, fittingly, provides a piano-accented backdrop that lets Lulu shine. She delivers words that sound slightly defeated and melancholy, at times backing vocals tripping into her. Listen above.
You might not expect a ton of sonic consistency from an electronic album clocking in at around 17 minutes in length. In such a tight space, you’d think got a wow them with a bunch of sounds! Tokyo’s Ryota Mikami opts for a different — and ultimately, more satisfying — path across Wedding’s seven songs. The producer connects these tracks — which range from the harp-accented prayer that is “She Was Singing As If She Were In Love” to the minimalist percussion flex of “Pyre” — by frequently using a synth line that sounds like a choir of cat-like angels singing towards the heavens, alongside dramatic electronic keyboard melodies popping up on nearly every song here. It lends Wedding the feeling of one continuous number rather than a set of songs, which ultimately works in its favor. Get it here, or listen above.
Producer De De Mouse’s signature sound is sliced-up vocals, the long-running artist taking split-second cuts of singing and turning them into syllabic candy. He’s just released a new EP, the Summer Twilight set, and this season he’s getting into the festival spirit. “Remember Night” is the opening number on the album, and De De Mouse splices up the sound of traditional festival singing, placing it against an electronic bounce. Similar to Omodaka, he’s using contemporary sounds (and techniques that are not particularly human) to create something that sounds very traditional…without being a historical recreation. Listen above.
Two of Japan’s finest juke makers dropped new albums during the same week — and that’s not even counting both of their contributions to Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 4, which they both played a big role in making happen. First up is Hiroshima’s CRZKNY, who follows up his politically charged contributions to that comp with Phantasmagoria, an album of more straight-forward footwork-ready cuts. He’s fantastic at making juke with an ominous vibe around it…but he also excels at slicing ASAP Rocky songs into frantic numbers or creating sweltering anthems devoted to the Chicago-born style. Get it here, or listen below.
Meanwhile, via Omoide Label, Kyoto’s Gnyonpix (here recording as mori aka Gnyonpix) moves away from juke in favor of something a bit more deconstructed on 01,999 No Gnyonpix. Many juke elements remain — speedy BPMs, sliced up twists — but the tracks here are lither, featuring a lot of space for the fizzy electronics to shine. Opener “Ego” even approaches ambient for its first half, before letting a little skitter in. Get it here, or listen below.
Pa’s Lam System has been one of the…if not the…best electronic producer in Japan for the last five years. The highlights are…pretty insane: “Bit By Bit,” “I’m Coming,” “Like A Lady,” this HyperJuice remix that caused me to spill coffee on my computer once. That nobody in Japan or abroad has gotten them to produce a pop song yet is shortsighted, and I think a lot of elements Pa’s played around with during this savage stretch of music are eventually going to start popping up in music in like two or three years (see: how every stock YouTube background song and even big-time hits incorporate ideas that were all over SoundCloud in like 2012). I was interviewed around the 2:50 mark of this video during Maltine’s 10th anniversary show last year, and you might notice I’m disgustingly sweaty. That’s because this happened right after Pa’s Lam System’s set, and they always get me to lose my shit.
They deserve a bigger audience, and they are in theory getting that shot with “Twiststep,” a single being released through major label Toy’s Factory (home to Babymetal, to name just one example). With it comes a lot of major label touches — a new logo, a music video (above), and fresh helmets. I received an advance copy of “Twiststep” about two weeks before today, and my first thoughts upon listening to it were…sort of let down? Personal expectations for this group are always skyscraper high, but my ears fixated on the elements that seemed like a grab at the still-booming EDM market here in Japan…screeching bass drops, trap-derived beats that mostly remind me of “Dirty Vibe,” a general air of Mad Decent-ness. None of these things are outright bad…commission me to write my alternate history where CL just gets “Dirty Vibe” as her debut American single, it’s good!…but “Twiststep” initially felt like a trio always ahead of the pack opting to match up to it.
In the two weeks that have passed, though, I’ve realized I focused too much on those elements at the expense of “Twiststep” as a whole (also that it’s really the single’s other new song “E.I.C” offering a glimpse of a more resigned Pa’s Lam System, taking all its cues from that one Major Lazer song). The bulk of “Twiststep” features all the things I love about the group — a swift build, taffy-pulled vocals celebrating sound over meaning, moments of pure release. Not all of the sounds hit quite right, but “Twiststep” also moves so fast that nothing really overstays, Pa’s ability to always be bending in a new direction working to their advantage here. And even with its stabs at maybe landing them at a biggie-sized fest, “Twiststep” is still better than like 90 percent of the music that actually gets played at something like Ultra Japan. “Twiststep” is a first step towards seeing what Pa’s Lam System can do with a (potential) larger audience, and one that will probably still make me sweat stupidly next time I see them live. Listen below.