The trajectory of all things “kawaii” follows a predictable route. Anything tagged as such is embraced initially, both by artists and fans, who flock to all things pastel and bubbly and somewhat unsettling in their radiance. Then, as all trends do, everyone associated with whatever the “kawaii” field are get uneasy about it, and try to distance themselves from it. “Kawaii bass,” whether that was a real thing or not but certainly reflecting a set of artists with shared sonic and visual references, is going through this now, with artists subtly (Tomggg getting more complex on newer albums, while also remixing, like, Rich Chigga) and directly (Ujico / Snail’s House announcing his next album isn’t like the other stuff). And of course, a more angry kickback comes when “kawaii” get applied by listeners too thickly, which is certainly justified as not everything from Japan should be saddled with the term…but, man I don’t know, maybe switching up the adolescent-looking anime women serving as your SoundCloud art might help alleviate the problem?
Anyway, as is often the case, the artists who simply bunker down and tune out all this noise in favor of seeing where they can push a sound next end up making the most interesting work. Nor and YUC’e’s project Beignet tick off a lot of the “kawaii” boxes — Mint Comet by Beignet! — but let the music show their growth. It follows up this spring’s very solid Momo Syrup outing, and finds the pair twisting in new ways. Many of the musical cues found in both their solo works pop up — this is a very bright and cheery set — with songs such as the title track matching fizzy verses with a dusty bass drop. Yet then something like “Rem” comes around, and it’s basically a Her Ghost Friend song, misty synthesizer and dollops of modern electronic beats pushing YUC’e’s singing to the front, where it turns into a wave of voices. Or “Mizutama,” an electro-pop number turned jittery by malfunctions and unfolding at a jog bringing to mind nu-Shibuya-kei kids (speaking of made-up genre). Many of the noises on Mint Comet sound familiar, but Nor and YUC’e have stuck with them long enough to find new dimensions to them. Get it here, or listen below.