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New Tominaga: Pain Is Mine

Electronic artist Tominaga hasn’t avoided using her voice in previous releases, but Pain Is Mine features some of the most direct usage of it yet. Primarily, the first two songs. “A Song For Blue Witch” skitters to life, but mostly hangs in the air, allowing space for Tominaga’s stretched-out singing to take up the center of the song. It almost feels like to the following number, the title track, which ends up being the highlight. It’s a rubbery dance number featuring horn notes and Tominaga’s rough-around-the-edges singing, backed by a particularly delectable saxophone. The rest of Pain Is Mine jumps all over the place — “Bamboo Rain” teases atmosphere but transforms to a lively number sampling hip-hop, while “La Mer” barrels forward. Her voice isn’t always present, but when it is, it adds an enchanting layer. Get it here, or listen below.

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Modern Meditations: Atnr’s Reality In The 21st Century

Tokyo artist atnr creates visual art to go alongside his music, but his Reality In The 21st Century needs no supporting images to gets its ideas across. Released via Illuminated Paths, it’s a set of simple but evocative electronic creations. Some of them are slow burning — “Install” spends about two minutes letting a single note drone on before adding in a few other icy details, the whole track slowly blooming, but taking its time to let those new elements rise up. “Anthem” pairs bird chirps against synthesized chanting, while “Shadows On The Ground” sounds like its slipping away. Yet it can get quite busy too, as on highlight “Neon-lit Street.” It’s a blurry take on R&B, featuring sad vocals that trail off, drum machine beats dropping like rain. But fluttery synth notes emerge, adding hope to this drenched place. No pictures needed. Get it here, or listen below.

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New Yullippe: Selfish&Anchor

Alternate title: I’m glad I didn’t start writing year-end content, because here comes an album to disrupt it a bit.

Osaka’s Yullippe excels at dark, unnerving dance music. Her third album Selfish&Anchor continues this dive into the shadowy side of the genre, and results in her most cohesive album to date. Which isn’t to say her previous full-lengths were lacking, but this one literally flows, songs blending together to create a rumbling mover set in the darker corners of sound. The opening title number sets the tone — over eight minutes, it builds from water-splash samples to the sound of Yullippe’s voice rippling, before an industrial beat slides in to take control of everything for a bit, silence breaking up its march. The rest of Selfish&Anchor plays around with the loud/soft dynamic, “Kokot’s” ample room making the fried beat all the more menacing and “Orbit’s” woozy structure made more effective by the elbow room it gets to stretch out. What makes it truly stand out, though, is her ability to make such claustrophobic sounds inviting. Get it here, or listen below.

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New Tentenko: “Nantonaku Abunai”

Tentenko presents a dilemma. She’s one of the most prolific artists of this decade, releasing CD-R after CD-R of songs skipping across all kinds of genres — she experimented with juke recently, what the hell! But also, hell yeah! — and genuinely going off in whatever direction she wants to. She has one perfect song that also turned out to be ahead of its time, and there is the whole “was part of the idol group that ended up having the biggest influence, for better or worse, on that scene in the back half of the 2010s” thing. She’s also eyed something bigger, signing with Toy’s Factory and putting out more mainstream-leaning songs to that end. There’s a lot to sift through, but oftentimes she feels stuck between stations. I think this Arama post from earlier this year captures it just right.

I’m intrigued, then, by her newest EP, out today. It seemingly builds on her first Toy’s Factory release by having her navigate other artist’s sounds — just look at the line-up on the first one — but pairs her with younger producers such as Emerald Four and Pellycolo, which are just outside (but not too far removed) of her ’80s space. “Nantonaku Abunai” doesn’t fit that mold. It gets assistance from Shintaro Sakamoto, and his lonely take on lounge music fits Tentenko’s voice well. It’s a solid song from an artist happy to slide all over the place. I think it’s also a good step forward towards potential bigger attention…if that’s what she wants. If she does, experiments like this seem like a good fit. Listen above.

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New Mitsume: “Esper”

With Mitsume, it’s all about the moments happening away from the vocals. Which isn’t to discount what Moto Kawabe does while singing — his light vocal delivery adds a melancholy-tinged breeziness to the quartet’s music, and the head-to-the-ground style trumps the more dramatic flourishes of groups such as Suchmos and Never Young Beach for me (which…quick aside, it’s sorta crazy how Mitsume paved the way for both those bands and down-the-ranks projects like Yogee New Waves to have bigger success…musically, not far off!). But it’s the sounds bookending the voice that really set Mitsume apart, and new single “Esper” provides one of the clearest examples in the band’s catalog to date. Just listen to the instrumental passages, featuring sun-soaked guitar playing that sounds just off — the bright rays out of focus just a touch — and the various effects swirling around them. Not quite uneasy, but like those mirage puddles you see on asphalt while driving on a hot day — a weird trick in something otherwise serene. Listen above.

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