.This June we saw a wave of new Japanese music, predominantly in the electronic and experimental music realm. Cross-generational releases saw electronic downbeat legend Calm through to newer acts and collaborations such as Hoon teaming up with graphic designer and artist Yoshirotten.
It was another good month for rap and hip hop, as Aaamyyy collaborated with Sic(boy) and Young Coco released “Typhoon!”
Calm — Freedom Sunset (Before)
This is an epic song from legendary Japanese downtempo producer, Calm. It comes from the album, Before — Ima Made no Mukou Gawa, his first album since 2018’s By Your Side.
Minimalist piano by Toshitaka Shibata tinkles over the surface of the multi-layered track with shakers, vaporwave synth and a multitude of guitar riffs. While “Freedom Sunset’” appears simple on first listen, digging deeper reveals a complex, intricate track. Akin to the likes of contemporaries such as Richard Chartier’s Pinkcourtesyphone, expansive synth and roving soundscapes stretch into the background.
Embellishments by collaborators like Tomokazu Sugimoto on bass and Yuchiro Kato on sax take the song up way into the clouds. A 10-minute track may sound long in principle, but Calm’s meticulous composition and delicate arrangement take the listener on a trip out into the sea. The track reaches a triumphant peak with emotional sax before pushing out towards the sunset for a final goodbye.
The entire album is definitely worth a listen, with other highlights including the upbeat “Beauty on Earth” and the hands-in-the-air inducing “Liminal Moment.”
AAAMYYY — Rain ft. Sic(boy)
Singer songwriter, Aaamyyy released “Rain” in June. The latest single taken from the 2021 album, Annihilation, the song features another Tokyo-based artist Sic(boy), who raps over the track and wrote part of the melody.
Opening with scene-setting rain (apparently recorded on Aaamyyy’s cellphone on a summer night), the track leads into a somewhat rockier Aaamyyy than we are used to. Drums by Breimen’s So Kanno add an acoustic element to Aaamyyy’s manipulated, cutesy vocals. The effect sounds like a rap track made by The Killers. Despite the implications, she pulls it off, aided by Sic(boy) adding an edge of grunge. With a high production music video to flesh it out, “Rain” displays a punchier side to Aaamyyy that we’re keen to hear more of.
Young Coco — Typhoon!
Fresh off a raucous live show for Tokyovitamin, Young Coco released his new single, “Typhoon!” in June, to nostalgic moog modulations of his own making. GeoGotBand, meanwhile, stepped up for production duties for the release.
Heavily autotuned to the likes of Tohji, Young Coco appeals heavily to the younger Japanese clubbing generation and it is easy to see why. As well as his Hi-NRG and spitting bars to the camera, what sets him apart from many of his peers is his general positive message, despite coming from a cypher background.
Young Coco’s hard vocals are balanced out by the use of melody, and his rhythm is undeniable. A delicious synthesized breakdown sees “Typhoon!” enter cosmic territory, pausing for a moment before Young Coco steps straight back into the lyrics once more. It’s an addictive track that warrants an extra listen. Or several.
Chisako & Junta — Difficulty
We love the bizarreness of this track. Packaged as J-pop, Junta’s production sees Foodman type glitch electronics slotted in between Chisako’s sincere vocals. Typically, an artist will layer instruments and build up effects and electronics but “Difficulty” detaches from the melody and vocals. The resulting song is a strangely enjoyable experience.
Junta seems to have produced his own electronic beat with cult favorite Foodman and Chisako has gone off to consult J-pop singer Michael Kaneko. The easy listening vocals along with a pleasant guitar beat are interspersed with oddball electronics, bursting with PC game sounds. The vocal and melody line is an excellently produced track by itself and could easily have seen a release on a label such as Space Shower. The addition of wonky electronics ensures that the track lies on the more innovative label EM Records, home to the likes of YPY, NTsKi and Sugai Ken.
Hoon, Yoshirotten – Dream’N
The end of June saw a creative collaboration between Hoon (stylized as んoon) and graphic designer and artist Yoshirotten. Hoon are an experimental multi-instrumentalist quartet, utilizing harp, keyboard and bass, along with the enigmatic vocals of JC.
The double EP features “Dream’N” (stylized as Dream‘ん), which opens in a haze of tinkling harp. It gradually welcomes in dissonant snare drums before the birdsong and vocals arrive, taking the song to new heights. Entering a valley, JC whispers harmonies over trickling streams. Behold the keyboard as heavily pitched-down vocals come in and we start to ponder the meaning of life. “Konya Dea Ete” brings in some downtempo beats and JC’s vocals bring it together, over a delightful floating melody.
The EP was released at an event at Omotesando Spiral Gallery, which saw Yoshirotten create reactive visuals to Hoon’s tracks.