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Calm Looks Good: KSDR In Multiverse’s “Don’t Box Me In”

Note: After a bit of a vacation, we are back and aiming to post more in the near future! Thanks for your continued support of Make Believe Melodies.

Growing up and calming down doesn’t have to be a drag. Tokyo artist Kisadori has been active in making EDM-glazed dance tunes for the last few years, including a post-Kygo bid at turning Stevie Wonder into festival fare. That sound could be a bit tiring, caught between raving out and trying to turn already great pop into something that could take up a minute of a DJ set. Yet her newest song, delivered under the name KSDR In Multiverse, finds her slowing down and hitting on something far more affecting. On “Don’t Box Me In” she tries out a spacier R&B sound, one giving her plenty of space among the rumbles and synth notes to deliver sing-raps loaded with longing. This doesn’t just work because of its more melancholic approach to music, but also because she finds space to deliver more playful vocal touches (see the little cascade of syllables after the hook). Listen above.

New Peanut Butters: “Peanut Butter”

Tokyo’s Peanut Butters keep it simple as can be, and the three-song Peanut Butter release via Ano(t)raks only finds them digging their heels deeper into the bouncy-but-somewhat-shady sound of a band still casting a large shadow over the Japanese indie-pop scene. Peanut Butters draw from The Drums, and do so very clearly, down to letting a similar synth melody wriggle around the up-tempo guitar and all-together-now vocals. They’ve studied well though, with these three songs nailing the catchiness of that group while also working in some more unnerving touches via the sing-speak vocals. Get it here, or listen below.

New Kenji: “Ai No Hibiki”

The corner of the Japanese experimental music community that Kenji (Wasabi Tapes, also known as Mayor Kenji among other names) connects so fiercely because the chopped-and-sliced approach to samples reflects modern life so well. Hip-hop melodies smash into radio station bumpers before echoes of a pop song play off behind some crystalline synth twinkles and spooky voices. Ai No Hibiki isn’t so much the best release from Kenji as much as it is the most recent, and each new album he puts out tends to feel more apt for the times because…well, uhhh, things aren’t slowing down. As has been the case before, Kenji’s best ability is stumbling across surprisingly catchy melodies from seeing chaos, and here the mess of sounds reveals all kinds of beauty. Get it here or listen below.

New Teams: Yonkey Links Up With AAAMYYY For “Downer Love”

Some pairings just end up working so well that dwelling too much on the how of it all seems a little pointless. Yonkey is an electronic producer signed to Asobisystem (seems fast!), while AAAMYYY is a member of the band Tempalay (responsible for one of the better albums of 2019) and also a solo artist (responsible for a pretty solid full-length earlier this year, albeit one that kind of keeps getting lost in the shuffle for me). “Downer Love” finds them working well with their best elements — Yonkey lays down a Russian nesting doll of a beat, one going from slow-motion synth sections to glistening playroom pop passages that introduce a nice spring into the song’s step. AAAMYYY contributes the vocal, and matches up with whatever atmosphere Yonkey works up. All together, it’s pretty easygoing and makes for a nice early-summer tune. Listen above.

New Gokou Kuyt: “Amethyst Drive”

Sort of double dipping with this one, but I think it’s worth it. Every week, streaming services put a spotlight on new Japanese rappers trying to take advantage of the always-coming-never-really-arriving moment where Japanese rap finally blows up. Some are good, most of them…are not. You usually have to go a layer beyond the “Apple Music presents” types to find something interesting, and that’s where Gokou Kuyt has resided making melancholy numbers inspired by “SoundCloud rap” and Korean numbers. While the inspirations have always been clear, Kuyt is one of those Japanese hip-hop artists more interested in finding their own angle on the familiar rather than simply trying as hard as they can to replicate things done better elsewhere. “Amethyst Drive” again has a pretty clear precedent, but Kuyt puts his own spin on it by focusing on the faded memories of the ’80s-inspired beat (check the tape whirring off at the start) and zooming in on the fragile feelings that could only come from someone who works with a label called Teen Dream Forever. It also reveals an ear for catchiness that other numbers hinted at but didn’t totally dig into, with the longing here balanced out by one of the best choruses he’s penned yet. Listen above.