What makes Tokyo project LLLL stand out from a very crowded music scene in the metropolis is the refusal to shy away from pop. Others involved in the city’s indie scene tend to avoid mainstream pop music, especially J-Pop, and some even seem antagonistic to it (this blog has been called “the one that has EXILE on it,” as if a J-Pop music video carries the same ickiness as, like, screamers). LLLL’s music, though, isn’t so skittish around pop elements. Though none of the songs on their self-titled debut – which you can download here – would have a shot at creeping onto the radio, LLLL’s multi-layered productions feature touches that would feel at home on a J-Pop album or even the closing credits of an anime. In the same way that Canada’s Purity Ring approaches pop or how American producer AraabMuzik made Euro-dance voices the staple of his Electronic Dream album, LLLL plunges J-Pop-friendly sounds into more experimental waters.
What makes LLLL stand out from any of the aforementioned musicians are the vocals, delivered by an especially high-pitched singer who wouldn’t sound out of place in an Oricon-topping group. Whereas an outfit like Jesse Ruins takes female vocals, though, and ushers them into the shadows, LLLL lets the voice swoop prominently over the luminous production. The inner workings of these songs deserve just as much praise – see the way the beat stutters about on “Because Of My Eyes,” or the sliding electric touches on “Falling Alone” – but it’s the voice that ends up grabbing the most attention because it’s right up front. LLLL sometimes gives the singing a digital vapor trail, as on the luscious “Drowned Fish,” but usually is untouched, resulting in moments like the chorus of closer “Assume” or pretty much the entirety of “Falling Alone,” which really should soundtrack every Metal Gear Solid fan video from here on out. Listen below, and get here.
LLLL isn’t the only Tokyoite unafraid to bite into the candy-shell sound of pop music – around the same time the LLLL album dropped, Taquwami (also known as Occult You) released a remix of DWNTWN’s “Hungry Hearts,” which highlights his take on overlapping-synth beauty. His production relies more on samples, and Taquwami tends to move them a bit further back compared to LLLL’s upfront style, yet both artists create richly detailed songs that are the audio equivalent of Studio Ghibli’s movies – all colorful and fantastical.