For those who spent October busy making outfits to tear up the Halloween dancefloor or even those who just want to discover some great new music, top albums from Japan is back.
This month’s best albums includes a split techno and ambient record from Yukari Okamura, a semi-crazed band album from The Hatch and a new one from Ninoheron.
EOU — Estream
The Kyoto-based DJ and producer has made a name for himself with his eclectic DJ sets, setting fire to dance floors across Tokyo and Europe.
“Good Morning” is a shimmering soundscape of simple, washy melodies drawing the shape of the moment one’s eyes open after sleep, gradually blinking in the sun’s light. One tone keeps the meditative phase simple and unfussy. Just what we need in the morning.
“Mizuha Infinity” aptly features trickling and hollow tinkling in the foreground, as though someone is lightly dropping water onto stone. Then there’s “@e22,” which enters the extra-terrestrial phase, with bleeps and electronic squeaks reminiscent of fellow ambient-sampler, Yolabmi. Continue onto the glimmering pads of “Nap,” which remains firmly in the napping territory.
Skip to “Est” and into a foggy drone mirage, starting deep and gradually building into a lighter realm bringing hope before ending somewhat abruptly.
Overall, a calming, meditative outing from the young producer. It’s an excellent debut.
The Hatch — The Shape of Raw to Come
While previous releases have seen The Hatch compared to the likes of Fugazi, their newest release sees the raucous Hokkaido band veering into Death Grips or even Can territory.
They have become more accomplished at composing and creating more measured songs which display a new maturity. In The Shape of Raw to Come, we can hear a singer who is confident to sing huskily, without fighting for space. This is evident on “Retina SS.” He even lowers to what can be described as spoken word, a bold display of confidence in his voice being just enough.
The tracklisting is well set out, with “Volvo,” setting the scene for a comtemplative second half of the album. “Step Inna Rain” is as close to jazz as the group has come, albeit with a faster beat. The song, unlike almost all their others, is a jazzy instrumental which sounds like pals having a refined jam, in the best way.
The following track, “As Human,” continues in this rein, adding vocals and breaks intermittently. “Discharming Us” is the band’s longest track to date. A slow-burner and the band’s most charming track, it is raw and thoughtful.
A new direction for The Hatch but one that simply adds to its flavor. We’re looking forward to more.
Yukari Okamura — Theory
Yukari Okamura is a mainstay in the Kansai techno scene, both as a DJ and producer. Having previously released dark, broody techno her latest release hits the space between techno and ambient.
The first two tracks are stripped-back, minimal techno, to be found on compilations referencing Basic Channel. “Motion,” the penultimate track, is a world of constructed sound design, with subtle sounds and minimal beats. A muffled, disembodied voice crawls through the track, with the pace of treacle walking, and the envisioned color the pearlescent blackness of an oil slick.
“Circle” is a slick soundscape of dark whirring and twinkling, glimmering starlight in a black sky of stars. Scraping and otherworldly crackles phase the song out slowly, disappearing into the darkness. This is a delicious album.
Ninoheron — Image
In a time when we have millions of tracks available at the click of a button, the first album from Ninoheron is a breath of fresh air. Image released on analog format, in a strictly-limited run, accompanied by a gorgeous booklet by designer Sou Numata, is selling out fast.
Currently unavailable on traditional streaming services, fans online are clamoring for any remaining copies. And it is probably not just because of the limited aspect of the release. It’s desirable because it is an excellent record, hitting the sweet spot of being both interesting and an easy-listener.
The opener “Hello” is a slack-guitared meander of a song, just look at the video. A track for not really doing anything, with an unidentifiable hook that is surprisingly catchy.
Other standouts include “Book” which is a contemplative retrospective track. Then there’s “Zero,” a song that is reminiscent of the hollow-voiced Arthur Russell track “Calling out of Context.”
The album closes with “Moon,” a joyful stroll to finish off the first album by Ninoheron: an accomplished musician starting his next phase.
If you’re a Japan-based musician and are interested in featuring here, please send any forthcoming releases over to editor[at]tokyoweekender[dot]com and include the subject line: “FAO Music Editor.”