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Self Analysis: MON/KU’s “Inner Odyssey”

“Inner Odyssey” aims to figure itself out, though the journey itself really does end up being the highlight. Artist MON/KU has dabbled in the disorienting and downright suffocating, but here they get a bit more playful. With singing coated in digital effects, MON/KU slithers through the slight electronic backdrop, just trying things out until a saxophone rips in. From there things slow down, fizzle and pick back up, almost feeling like electronic improv. Yet this unpredictability sells it. Listen above.

New Nate And Flip Flop Fly: “Reflects My Self” And “Intersect”

Big week for rapper Nate, involved in two of the best songs released out of Japan over the last seven days. She takes centerstage on “Reflects My Self,” a woozy number that finds her sing-rapping (and adding in some delightful ad libs) over a rippling electronic beat close to Local Visions’ brand of out-of-time-ness. It is just the right backdrop for Nate’s delivery, here concealing plenty of longing, and prone to being manipulated into a near-Vocaloid thing that helps it meld in well with the electronic backdrop. Listen above.

She also teamed up with another rising act, Magical Ponika, as Flip Flop Fly on the song “Intersect.” This one inches a bit away from ennui in favor of a tag-team approach over a kitchen-sink beat that finds the pair pogoing on top with boasts and a generally upbeat disposition. Listen below.

New Universe Nekoko: “Kimi No Youni Ikiretara”

“Kimi No Youni Ikiretara” is made for the tender-hearted teen lurking within. Universe Nekoko have been students of shoegaze and indie-pop since starting out, but this release finds them just nailing the feeling just right. Maybe I’m just getting a bit too wistful for youth, but “Kimi” captures that sense of longing lurking underneath waves of electric guitar distortion. It’s a feeling clear right from the opening chug of “Virgin Suicides,” noise colliding just right with drama. “Like A Raspberry” holds back on any sort of catharsis in favor of slow-simmering tension, while highlight “(I’m) Waiting For The Sun” nods to MBV most directly with some distorted guitar notes before giving over to noise. Get it here, or listen below.

New Cairophenomenons: “In The Pye”

Cairophenomenons have always let their music unfold at their own strolling pace, but “In The Pye” slows things down in a whole new way. Everything starts normal enough, as the band plays a nice mid-tempo number featuring some conflicted lyrics hinting at a lot of worry and confusion. “What I want to say is…” goes one line, before the song goes into slow motion, the beat nearly vanished from the number and the words now leaning towards a few sentences and a lot of whispered syllables. It’s ghostly, and conveys all of the same confusion as the swifter sections, but with a more mysterious edge to it. Listen above.

New i-fls: “Not Beautiful View”

The difference between nostalgia and wistfulness can be miniscule. Artist i-fls has long resided in this crack between the two, creating simple songs packed with emotional weight. Commuter towns, family restaurants after last train, spacious parks just outside of Tokyo, longing, browsing the internet for hours on end — i-fls’ song titles have always helped fill in these blanks, though the computer-created melodies skipping along offer plenty of space to paint your own ennui out over them. Few artists this decade have mined one specific theme more than i-fls, but nobody has done it as well, even if I was running out of ways to capture the feeling of staring out a window listening to their music while thinking about life back in 2013.

Not Beautiful View makes this balance clearer the most. Perhaps the description accompanying the album — “in the not glittering days” — helps here, but all it takes is time spent with something like the skippy “Car” or the 8-bit bluster of “Chiaki Breeze” to feel a lot of mixed emotions swirling around i-fls’ Garageband melodies. Specific details fill out the rest — or maybe I’m just letting the twinkling stroll of “Twilight In Hikarigaoka” be overwhelmed by memories of actually living in Nerima and getting it — and moments of real release filter through all the sighs. “The (Nobody) Theatre” just nails this whispy bounce that is downright ecstatic, even if I can see the good times turning to memories right in front of me. Or how “Yoshiko Noticed” is just…perfect, an Apple approximation of acid house run through fleeting feelings. Get it here, or listen below.