Reinventing the genre with The Japanese House
Spotlight on The Japanese House and her new EP, Saw You In A Dream
In case you haven’t heard, The Japanese House is just starting to take the world by storm even though she’s been cranking out tunes since 2015. I first stumbled across The Japanese House a couple years ago on a random “Ones to Watch” list online and I’ve been hooked ever since.
So who is The Japanese House? It was ambiguous until fairly recently. Not only was the person behind the name unknown, but the electronic, multi-faceted, stylistically warped voice featured in the music was hard to distinguish. When it first started out, the androgynous nature of The Japanese House added an air of mystery to the music, and that was the intent of the creative soul behind it all. The music gained exposure purely because of the music itself since it wasn’t attached to a person, a gender, or the drama that can come with being in the spotlight of the music industry. The Japanese House is actually the project of one young British girl: Amber Bain.
Speaking as a fan who’s been there almost from the very start, the evolution of The Japanese House has been an incredible ride. Her first two EPs, Pools To Bathe In and Clean, each feature four experimental songs that could be classified as alternative, synth-pop, dream-pop, indie – the list goes on and on. Bain has mastered making the kind of music that’s difficult to put a label on. She created these first eight songs with her voice, her instruments, and her laptop, and with each aspect she adds to her music as she continues to release EPs, she gets better and better.
Since she only had eight songs in existence when I first started listening, I was ecstatic when she released “Face Like Thunder” in 2016. Soon after, she released another four-song EP: Swim Against The Tide, which, in my opinion, was some of her best work so far. Next came her Saw You In A Dream EP, released just a couple weeks ago, and The Japanese House has outdone herself.
The four songs that make up Saw You In A Dream are well-written, perfectly produced, honest, and raw. I would argue that this EP is her best work to date. The lyrics are dark and address melancholy topics, but the music, especially in the song “Saw You In A Dream,” is catchy and upbeat. We hear a lot more guitar in these songs than we have on past EPs and we also get a more organic version of Bain’s voice. Her first three EPs had a noticeable recurring theme of the cleansing effects of water, while her most recent EP departs slightly from that theme to take a more head-on approach to different types of relationships. The song that stands out to me most on this EP is undoubtedly “Count to Nine.” This experimental masterpiece seamlessly intertwines her electronic, dreamy vocals with intervals of pure instrumental bliss. The smooth transitions in style and tempo keep the song vibrantly alive for its full nine minutes and you’ll be impressed with how she keeps listeners on their toes.
One of my favorite things about The Japanese House is the fact that she can convey so many different messages and emotions within one piece. Her music is so full of bizarre surprises and they actually work. It’s easy for some musicians to get caught up purely in the experimental nature of their work and it can sound chaotic, but she has the ear for it. Every aspect of her music fits together. Everything in her songs serves a purpose and it always seems to emphasize something, be it a feeling or a lyric that could have a double meaning depending on the way it’s interpreted.
If you get a chance to see one of her shows, I would definitely recommend going. She’s been touring for a while now, and even did a stint of arena shows opening up for her label mates and supporters, The 1975. Since her music is so calm and dreamy, a lot of people assume her shows can’t be much of an experience. Well, think again. I saw her headlining show in Prague a few months ago and it was nothing short of incredible. Although it was a short show (after all, she only has 16 songs, and only had 12 at the time of this show), it was an impressive one. It was clear that she was enjoying her time on stage and she played every single song in her repertoire. At the end, when the crowd started shouting for an encore, she very bluntly came back onstage and said “I don’t really have another song to play, but if you’d like, we could play ‘Face Like Thunder’ again.” And that’s exactly what happened. So, we got an encore of “Face Like Thunder” and then out of nowhere she transitioned into a killer Stevie Nicks cover to close out the show. The energy present in her songs when she plays them live is unbelievable.
I also have a lot of respect for her because it seems like Bain has had a hand in every aspect of her career and her products as a musician – which isn’t something that a lot of artists can say. She writes the songs from her experience. She records the vocals. She plays the instruments. She layers and edits them on her laptop to her liking. She even takes all the photos for her cover art. If you read her interviews, follow her social media, or see her speak live, she is one of the most down-to-earth and honest musicians in the industry right now, despite all of her success recently. She’s definitely one to watch so keep her on your radar. She’s bound to surprise and impress us all again with her next endeavor, so stay tuned!