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New Figure: “Christmas Eve Of 1992” And “Daylight”

Indie-rock project Figure has always been just outside of any indie-pop community in Japan, their music being too claustrophobic and darker-tinged to really slide in next to the various Sarah Records devotees across the country. After what felt like an extended break, Figure has a new album out in September via Sauna Cool, and has shared two songs that further set them apart. “Christmas Eve Of 1992” is the slower of the two and approaches ballad territory, but the bedroom sound and melancholy sigh of a vocal give this that Figure feel, as does the gradual build from soft to rumbling. Listen above.

“Daylight” is more traditionally in line with the Figure of the recent past, taking a familiar indie-pop melody and encasing it in distortion to give it a more crushing feel. Between these two songs, the forthcoming album might be as full a statement from Figure as you could hope for. Listen below.

Disorienting Symphony: Moscow Room’s “Swim”

There’s something wonderful about being knocked off balance. Tokyo trio Moscow Room create something disorienting on “Swim,” a number really maximizing space and sudden noise better than most numbers I’ve heard in 2018. Everything starts like its coming out of a seashell, the vocals and synths just out of reach. But as everything lurches forward, this feeling of being far away works as a way to turn everything unsettling, with the electronics picking up in intensity and turning “Swim” into something downright claustrophobic. And then those moments of pause come up, offering respite…only to let chipmunked voices in to disorient the whole thing. Listen above.

Goofin’: Digital Clinic 2000’s “April Stretch”

Consider this the sorbet following yesterday’s emotional bloodletting. Digital Clinic 2000 are a bunch of goofballs, and bless ’em for that. “April Stretch” serves as their proper debut, and it is a silly number built around the group delivering echo-soaked spoken word bits over a slinky synth-driven beat. Just check the cheap video coming with it — three dudes, sometimes holding keyboards, dancing in front of a green screen displaying video game footage and various other trippy backgrounds. It’s pretty charming though — so much Japanese “funny” music relies on hyperactivity, dudes with guitars shrieking about desserts or something, that it’s generally a delight to hear Digital Clinic 2000 construct something off-kilter and silly using a simple electronic backing. And that backdrop is pretty catchy too! Here’s how to do weird funny, and to do funny weird. Listen above.

New Metome: Dialect

Time just keeps on slipping. Not many years ago, there was this moment in the Kansai region where electronic music coalesced into something special. It was a moment where a musical community starts hitting a stride at the same time — you had INNIT, you had Day Tripper, you had parties scattered across the rest of the region and myriad artists emerging with their own bend on dance music. It all peaked with what was the last moment Osaka had a real moment of mid-level growth, with INNIT creeping up the ranks to larger venues. Artists from these circles went on to do all sorts of other musical endeavors and the spirit of the time still comes through, but the actual groundswell stopped, and now Osaka’s music community is — like most fields — split between extremes.

Something melancholy runs through Metome’s Dialect, the Osaka artist’s third full-length album. It’s the culmination of the producer’s last few years, starting following a particularly lush 2013 (highlighted by my personal choice for the best album to emerge from this community, the springy and mind-swirling Objet). He moved away from the hyper-kinetic in favor of tracks unfolding at a slower pace, more content on stewing rather than bouncing from idea to idea. You can track that evolution on Dialect which gathers (and in some cases rejiggers) Metome’s move into hazier territory. “Palm” set the stage back in 2016, and sets the mood on the album with its minimal beat and sigh of a vocal sample, following an opener that’s more ambient wash than song. That only grew with “Passage” and (the still spellbinding) “Sathima,” while even the more loose-limbed “Koala” hides an exhausted side.

Intentional or not, Metome’s move towards stripped-down and spacier sounds gives all of Dialect a feeling of thoughtful reflection. Later numbers only grow more lost in memory, from the short-circuiting synth waves of “Testament” to an interlude like “Harness,” built from violin loops. Even the one big throwback to Objet’s scattershot sound — the rubbery “Come To Me,” originally released in 2016 — leaves space to reflect. There’s something painful about Dialect found in those roomier moments, every song echoing something that feels familiar but now comes off as a bit lost to time, like an empty basement club. But it isn’t nostalgic — it can’t be, time still moves forward, everyone involved in those days does has shifted (such as Metome, evidenced by the sound of this album), and even being overly grim about Kansai’s music community would be goofy as a whole new generation is coming up. Rather, it’s an album reflecting on something that can’t come back, just because, well, that’s how everything goes. But it captures something wonderful about those times even in the more downcast moments. Get it here, or listen below.

New YTAMO: Mad & Sad

Mad & Sad is a brief wrangling with emotions, and of getting out the bad ones. “In 2016,i was lost in sadness and i called the feeling ‘mad sad.’ I need to create something for my brighter future,” YTAMO writes alongside this three-song therapy session. And it is at its best when really wrestling with feelings, primarily on nine-plus-minute-long opener “e,” where YTAMO sings and speaks over piano and synth wobbles, in no rush to get anywhere and content to turn ideas over slowly and see where they lead. Catharsis doesn’t have to be loud or violent. The rest of Mad & Sad is a bit more focused, featuring a pair of wordless numbers that move from meditative (“d”) to rollicking (“z”). Get it here, or listen below.