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Happy Kuru Kuru Teams Up With 2ToneDisco For “Napoleon”

Idol unit Happy Kuru Kuru have tried out a variety of producers over their young career, though a trend among the trackmakers they work with has certainly emerged. The pair often sing over high-energy music merging future bass with cuddlier touches — Yunomi’s roughneck playhouse being a common setting, with appearances by the likes of Tomggg and Brinq, to name just a few. “Napoleon” serves up a nice change-up. The music comes courtesy of Los Angeles duo 2ToneDisco, and they create a slippery dance track that manages to maintain the same idol-appropriate atmosphere of Happy Kuru Kuru’s while deploying an entirely different set of sounds (see those subtle bell chimes, for one). There’s more space, and the pair’s voices get glazed in effects at various points, which is a nice detail that keeps the song shifting. It’s a great song, and the latest example in 2018 of Western artists collaborating with Japanese ones — virtual or otherwise — to create really top-notch dance pop. Get it here, or listen below.

New Kamisama Club: “Submarine”

Kamisama Club turn the uncomfortable into joy on “Submarine.” The duo have always been pop fiddlers, creating bouncy numbers out of weirder sounds, but here’s the first time where they really pull off a whirlwind rush of sounds that borders on collapse…but just holds together to be among the year’s most fidgety joys. An instructional-tape-ready voice welcomes us into this world, and then everything gets elastic as the vocals enter in. Then its really off — the singing gets wild, the music collapses, lip noises creep in, it goes through this jaunty section where they show off their neo-Shibuya-kei leanings (and a little De De Mouse, for good measure), and that’s just glancing over it. None of this should gel, but Kamisama Club make it stick just right, and it’s one of their strongest efforts to date. Listen above.

New Kaine Dot Co: “☁”

Been a second since writing about the hazy indie rap scene starting to emerge (or at least become more clear) in Japan, but that’s more because the artists in it are branching out to platforms not as friendly towards our brand of blogging. If you have access to a streaming music site, go seek out Sleet Mage’s newest number “Changes,” boasting a beat making me all wet-eyed thinking about American Football, and featuring a typically emotional performance from Sleet Mage himself. For everyone else, spend some time with Kaine Dot Co’s “☁,” a number floating in the same blunted-out zone as “Sleepy Trippie Mage,” but rather than being the perfect personification of “anime girl sighing on loop,” Kaine Dot Co flows through it in a more sturdy manner, laid-back bordering on monotone but exuding enough confidence over the dreaminess around them. And it hits on what I like so much about this corner of Japanese rap — besides being more melodic, it is also in no rush to prove anything, but rather content to do its thing. Listen above.

New Mecanika: Newtone

Here’s a nice case of a circle coming together. The past two years have made it clear that a new generation of artists are coming up in Japan’s electronic underground, and that they appear to have spent at least some time digging into Maltine Record’s catalog (not to mention tofubeat’s work). So Mecanika putting out an EP via the netlabel is a nice development — not the first time an artist inspired by the label in question released via them too, but still a fun development. Newtone gathers three songs from the young artist, showcasing their laid-back approach to dance-pop. Unlike Mom, Native Rapper or Lulu — artists who I’d put in the same general category — Mecanika excels at blending into his music. The title track is an easy-going keyboard number backed by a nuts-and-bolts beat, and it elevates up when Mecanika’s voice comes in. It swoops along with the song, more an instrument mixing well than a wildcard element (Mom’s Baby Like A Paperdriver comes to mind there). “Beton” picks up the energy a touch, while “18” finds Mecanika inching towards something easier to call pop (while still flexing clever production details — I’d be happy to hear an instrumental, to really soak in all the details), and in either mode the vocals line up just right. Get it here, or listen above.

Venture Deep: Hypnotic Inc.’s “Cheap Flutes”

Everything seems normal enough at first — a side-to-side beat backed by a little extra percussion, slowly gaining new elements as it motors on. So far, so normal for project Hypnotic Inc.’s “Cheap Flutes.” But then the synthesizer creeps in, and then the songs shifts to something more unnerving. An ominous cloud of noise hangs over the beat, and the edges warp. Everything becomes off-balance, and it gets all the better as a result. Listen above.