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New Oyubi: “Dark Bedroom”

Oyubi flexes a bit of range on newest song “Dark Bedroom.” The young producer has earned a lot of looks thanks to their take on Chicago-born juke music in the last couple of years, but for this post-midnight number they jump across the pond and take cues from British 2-step. “Dark Bedroom” drifts between intimidating and dreamy, sounding more apt for a 3 a.m. stroll around Shibuya’s backstreets more than anything else. A nice change of pace that shows how much variety Oyubi is capable of. Get it here, or listen below.

New Tricot: “Daihatsumei”

Perhaps it was overly paranoid, but it’s great to see Tricot still chugging along. For a second last year, it looked like lead vocalist / guitarist Ikkyu Nakajima could pivot into more proper J-pop territory, due to the surprise success of the variety-show-fueled band Genie High and just a greater turn to being a more jack-of-all-trades talent. But nope, still in Tricot creating start-stop rockers powdered with her emotionally resonant singing. “Daihatsumei” serves as the first taste of a new EP out next week, and delivers all of the Tricot standards — sudden shifts in pattern, backing vocals used as sonic springs to push Nakajima’s main singing up more, stupid catchy chorus. Listen above.

New Yurufuwa Gang And Ryan Hemsworth: “Fresh All Day”

Despite being their most zonked out number lyrically to date, Yurufuwa Gang’s “Fresh All Day” manages to avoid falling into the ether. That’s not a bad spot for the pair — last year’s “Palm Tree” being a strong argument for just letting the void devour you entirely — but this one works because Ryan Hemsworth’s music keeps them moving forward, not letting them get too bogged down in celebrating weed and coke (timely!). It isn’t too hard hitting, offering just enough percussion to nudge the two forward as they bounce off the walls. Coupled with a video using “Take Me To Your Dealer” as a guiding inspiration, it results in a fun number that avoids slumping over. Listen above.

New Amunoa: Grief

I associate a lot of feelings with independent Japanese electronic music — joy, togetherness, escape, ecstasy, lower back pain (owing to a crowd surfer jumping directly onto me at a Pa’s Lam System show…great set, though). But vulnerability isn’t one that has exactly cropped up much in the decade I’ve been following it. Releases and parties tend to gravitate to hyperactive displays of fun and community, fitting for artists celebrating the fact they’ve used the internet to build a kind of alternative world where they can go off and do what they want. Artists have creeped towards melanchily, but I’ve never heard anything that’s flat out dealing with something heavy from this netlabel and netlabel-adjacent zone.

Amunoa makes it clear they’ve got something on their mind right away with Grief, a remarkable album that finds a producer that I know best for blasts of energy turning inward. Tracks on Grief unfold more slowly, like they are turning over ideas while walking through the winter cold. The sound of footsteps trudging along even pops up in the mix on opener “Namikidori,” while acoustic guitar strums and distant vocal samples half-singing “I remember” pass by. “Two Seasons” uses a similar submerged sound and lonely keyboard notes to create a sense of longing, even while the beat hops along at a pace that could be morphed into something more energetic. Amunoa allows themselves a few moments of release — see the zero-gravity hop of “Do.Da.Di.Do” or the Metome/Seiho splice job of “Cold Yebis” — but even these loose-limbed inclusions feature details that remind those tough memories aren’t so easy to shake off. Grief uses sounds and techniques more associated with rave-ups at your favorite Dogenzaka club as a way to wrangle with something heavy, all while maintaining an energy that makes sure Amunoa never gets to down on itself. And by the closer “See Ya,” they sound like they are starting to find resolution, ending everything on an upbeat note that makes Grief function as a front-to-back listen. Get it here, or listen below.

New Wagatsuma: “Fureru”

Sometimes songs can do one thing so well they don’t require much reflection. Such was the case with Wagatsuma’s “Slowdown,” a calming bit of pop that used a little to leave a big impact (and offer an apt backdrop for just zoning out). “Fureru” is mostly another great example of how to turn out a nice soothing song, but it also offers a little more space to celebrate Wagatsuma’s songwriting chops. Like how they use voices to create disorienting passages that can then turn suddenly, or how the hook just breaks into a lovely gallop to pick up the energy when just needed. Listen above.