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New Mondo Grosso Featuring Aina The End (BiSH): “Itsuwari No Sympathy”

Mondo Grosso appears to be here to stay, rather than just be a one-off comeback responsible for a solid album and a song-of-the-year contender. “Itsuwari No Sympathy” — out on streaming services for at least a month now, but finally blessed with a video today — finds Shinichi Osawa continuing to explore the electronic wisps defining last year’s Reborn Again and Always Starting New, building the song up slowly before letting it break into a gallop. Yet, as was also the case in 2017, it’s the guest vocalist who really shines brightest and turns this into an early 2018 J-pop highlight. Aina The End of BiSH glides over the softer verses, delivering vocals that take the dreamier words of “Labyrinth” to a more intimate (and at times uncomfortable) place. But that all sets up the chorus, a delirious repetition of words that is basically a moment of release in a song that is mostly of controlled build. Good signs for Mondo Grosso’s newest album out…next week. Listen above.

New Mountain: Overheat

Osaka’s Mountain has been creating some of Japan’s best drum ‘n’ bass over the last few years, and their most recent release through Soulvent Records marks a particular energetic high for the project. “Overheat” starts things off nicely, featuring a zippy pace joined by some vocal stutters of varying pitches. It’s a nice setter, but the breakthrough is the b-side, “Poseidon.” Here, the often-times reserved side of Mountain breaks away, revealing the most energetic track they’ve ever produced. After a little drip-dropping and piano, everything picks up and “Poseidon” just zooms ahead, powered by a gorgeous vocal melody of syllables lending the track an a melancholy edge. Get it here, or listen below.

New Erik Luebs: Cycle 1​.​3 | March

Tokyo-based producer welcomes in Spring…well, early Spring, but who’s keeping tabs that closely…with a new cycles of songs to get listeners moving. Like previous releases from him, the two songs on Cycle 1​.​3 | March match rumbling beats up with more uneasy details. That’s most present on opener “Mirror Room,” a sweltering number marked by sharp bass daggers that add menace to the track — even during the phases where it actually lets go and gets limber. “Seething” is a little more relaxed, opting for a skittery start that builds to a more energetic release, with a little unease lurking. Get it here, or listen below.

Scrambled Right: Nekura’s “Koinomiyako City Of Love”

When trying to talk about future funk and the variants on this micro-genre I personally find interesting, I’d point to Tanuki’s “Baby Baby No Yume” as a good example. It’s a heavy remix of an existing song that allows many of the main elements of the original to shine through, but re-arranges enough to offer a new perspective on it (and honestly sound closer to De De Mouse in how it approaches syllables). A lot of similar qualities come through in Nekura’s “Koinomiyako City Of Love,” via Pink Neon Tokyo. Critically is how the producer approaches voices — simply speeding things up only proves so novel, but Nekura stretches the vocal samples here in all kinds of directions, emphasizing the individual sound over anything else. That’s how you make something funky from the past that still manages to excite beyond internet tags. Listen above.

From The Corners: Ayumiko’s “Dancing Darkness”

Ayumiko has popped up on several songs by electronic artists that we’ve covered in recent times, but “Dancing Darkness” seems like a good entry point into her own sound. The melancholy atmosphere and her use of anime visuals puts her in similar territory to young artists such as Sleet Mage and Gokou Kuyt, but she doesn’t really rap here, but rather sings in a whispery style that reminds me of an artist like Canopies And Drapes. Yet let’s not get too caught up in comparisons, because Ayumiko’s greatest skill here — besides creating a tense mood — is matching music with vocal delivery, her muffled singing sliding just right alongside the beat. Listen above.