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Album Review: The Japanese House - Good at Falling


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If four EPs were an introduction to The Japanese House, Good at Falling, set for release via Dirty Hit on March 1st, marks the maturity of Amber Bain’s own brand of dreamy soft-pop. Revealing a new focus both musically and lyrically, Good at Falling might be her most upfront material so far.

The Japanese House

The Japanese House - Good At Falling

Against a background of EPs put out between 2015 and 2017, Bain had already released an album’s worth of material, honing the sound and feel of her intricate dreamscapes. Yet, with frequent tours with Dirty Hit label friends, The 1975 and Wolf Alice, her full-length debut feels a long time coming. With thirteen perfectly crafted tracks, Good at Falling is an album full of new, drawn from a transformative period with admirable honesty and vast production.

Opening track ‘went to meet her (intro)’ begins the album with layered androgynous vocals and tribal-like drum percussion. With some of the most elaborate production to date, the distorting warp and rolling beat effortlessly journey through autotuned talk before seamlessly meeting with ‘Maybe You’re the Reason’ - a track articulating the experience of half-living when in the absence of love. Pieced together by the plucking of a guitar, Bain’s aesthetic confidence offers a search for meaning as she sings “And I think I’m dying / ‘Cause this can’t be living / Should I be searching for some kind of meaning?”.

Current single ‘We Talk all the Time’ continues the thought of relationships whilst reverberating through a myriad of autotuned vocals and instrumentation. As a single track with an abrupt ending, the comedown feels better shaped in Good at Falling as the pulsating tones continue into ‘Wild’. The two tracks could almost be one, with exception of the latter undergoing a hypnotic synth treatment with heavy influence from The 1975’s Matty Healy and George Daniel (who have frequently co-produced for Bain in previous years).

Previous single ‘Follow My Girl’ reinstates a bouncy dream pop as Bain’s vocals are coated in tropical electronica as she sings of finding a need of direction. The galloping heartbreak of the track is about taking good advice, pushing down doubts and reaching for hope, however tentative; as “Nothing feels good / it’s not right” circles around the air. It’s exciting to witness The Japanese House abandoning intricate ambience at the minute she seemed to have her signature soundscape nailed. Rather, ‘Follow My Girl’ differs from the chillwave pop that Bain has been exploring for years as it oozes scalability and confidence in a new sound.

Lead single ‘Lilo’ is as engrossing as it is ethereal. Simply as serene as a lilo floating across the surface of a swimming pool, the track seamlessly blends subtle-synth with a soothing melody to document the what was, at that time, the final moments of Bain and girlfriend Marika Hackman’s relationship. It’s accompanying video is just as cinematically beautiful, with the drum beats perfectly syncing to rupturing intimacy against the natural landscape.

The following three tracks are only further proof of the versatility of The Japanese House’s mastery. ‘Everybody Hates Me’ is a beautiful, piano-driven journey of paranoia, whilst later tracks are ethereal, sonic and celestial. All of this gives Good at Falling at vibrant urgency.

The album appropriately closes with ‘I Saw You in A Dream’ – the lead single from the 2017 EP of the same time. Yet, this is not for the sake of fan-pleasing as it is revisited and revised as a slow, near-acoustic closer with hazy tones that deserves a place on this album.

Good at Falling may have been years in the making, but The Japanese House have crafted a unique perfection and prove to be more than worth the wait. Amber Bain's craft comes in building something out of the rubble. Rather than being swallowed up by an Alice In Wonderland-esque rabbit hole, Good at Falling champions emotion whilst building upon the shimmering indie-electronica that mesmerized fans from Bain’s beginnings.

Good At Falling is out on March 1st via Dirty Hit.

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