New Japanese Vibes (94) – D.A.N. ‘SSWB’

D.A.N. has only been active for just over two years, but has garnered great interest both in Japan and abroad. Their spellbinding blend of minimal and mellow pop smoulders a sound world that lures listeners into a world beyond one’s headphones. ‘SSWB’, their latest release, dabbles in a sultry sonic backdrop intertwined with ripples of neo-soul richness, an introspective club dance ambience and a perpetuating ethereal steel drum riff in the air. Coupled with a nocturnal video brewing smokes of suspicion and seductiveness from start to end, the trio has certainly absorbed my senses in an inescapable, infectious musical cage.

Other Info

  • A.N.’s new digital single SSWB was released on December 23rd.
  • Listen to ‘Native Dancer’ by D.A.N. in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (66) – 仮谷せいら Kariya Seira ‘Colorful World’

For those in need for a tune to liven up your 9-to-5 weekdays, 仮谷せいら Kariya Seira will galvanise the party atmosphere with her new track ‘Colorful World’. The track is bursting with rainbow-coloured synths, pumping beats, foot-tapping rhythms and vibrant harmonies, all conducted by Kariya’s charming and zestful vocals. If today’s J-pop lacks any dazzling creativity, then Kariya is the antidote to the flat musical landscape with her appealing yet eccentric J-pop vibes.

Other Info/Context

  • Kariya Seira’s new EP Colorful World was released on June 15th.

© Isaku Takahashi


New Japanese Vibes (39) – House Of Tapes ‘Twinkle Colors’

House Of Tapes’ new track ‘Twinkle Colors’ seduces the listener in a glistening world of electronic colours. Based in Nagoya, the Japanese producer/track maker expressed his intentions to create a “cute song that blends a toytronica element with electronica”. From the opening riff, the tone is set. A vibrant array of synth harmonies, sparkling percussive effects, twinkling high range melodies and an infectious beat collide like particles in space to radiate a bright and wonderful sound world.

Other Info/Context

  • House Of Tapes will perform at this spring’s Nagoya-Elektronic-Fes 2016 alongside other electronic artists.

© Isaku Takahashi

Masayoshi Iimori

Masayoshi Iimori is a name gaining attention in the electronic music scene. The Japanese track maker from Saitama prefecture started off with a modest following on SoundCloud, and gradually expanded towards greater milestones that include grabbing the attention of electronic enthusiasts across the ocean and online platforms such as NEST HQ.

Living in Tokyo means that Iimori gets to experience many aspects of the vivid and cosmopolitan city, but is also a cultural hotspot in which musicians embrace styles from outside the Japanese border, which is perhaps reflected in his rainbow-coloured tracks such as ‘Break It’. One cannot sleep through this enticing trap number constantly changing in atmosphere and sonic intentions. It is full of in-your-face vocal samples, alluring synth harmonies, pounding beats, laser-coloured timbres, and unashamedly echoing glimpses of viral tune ‘Harlem Shake’.

Badly’ sees a vibrant palette of sounds and riffs collide with each other to coax a gritty and downright seductive electronic number. Taken from his Futon EP, Iimori brings elements of trap, hip-hop and techno music under one creative filter. Perpetuating synth phrases, a meticulous drum line, sporadic vocal particles cast a sonic spell under a relentless rhythmic propulsion.

Whirlwind’ is the track that marks NEST HQ’s enthusiasm for Iimori’s unique creations. No two bars or phrases are the same – the track has a relentless energy that galvanises a “whirlwind” of sonic ideas from the quirky laser-tinged synth lead, pounding drumbeats, intense dynamic shifts, skittish vocal fragments and complex rhythmic lines woven with precision-engineered craft.

Other Listening:

  • Super Mellow Beat
  • Papapa
  • Justice – Stress

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (11) – Nissy ‘Playing With Fire’

As a fan of Japanese pop group AAA, it was only natural that I would join the bandwagon of 西島隆弘 Nishijima Takahiro (‘Nissy’ as his solo artist name) enthusiasts. Bringing back glimpses of previous hits like どうしようか? ‘Doushiyouka’ (‘What should I do?’) and ‘DANCE DANCE DANCE’, the high spirited 1/7th of the avex-born group takes it up a notch with his new single ‘Playing With Fire’.

The track and music video exists within a similar sphere as Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo or Austin Mahone. Crossing over between R&B flavours, electro-pop and dance beats, it has all the fundamental qualities to pierce every fan’s heart and lure them into sonic ecstasy: bright brass bullets, sumptuous backing vocals, foot-tapping beats and the seductive vocals of Nishijima that extends towards his falsetto range.

Other Info/Context

  • Playing With Fire’ will be released on Dec 24th.
  • Nishijima’s entertainment career spans many areas from music, TV dramas, movies and model work.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (10) – Perfume ‘STAR TRAIN’

Japanese techno-pop trio Perfume released their new single ‘STAR TRAIN’ this late October as part of their 15th anniversary. Known for their relentless, energetic synth-laden dance pop, this song conveys more of their delicate personality, while retaining some of their musical character that made them popular in the first place.

Among the characteristic android-tinged vocals of the trio and the vibrant synth patterns, the presence of pounding piano chords and guitar strumming in the verse conjure up subtle glimpses of Munford and Sons-esque anthemic expressions. A sparkling chorus lifts the mood instantly with a chorus melody (evocative of an anthemic Coldplay or U2 number) powerful enough to conduct a sing-along with an audience. The word play Perfume makes between ‘Star Train’ and ‘Start Line’ in the lyrics adds a nice personal touch, perhaps conveying the message that although they have been in the business for 15 years, this is just the beginning and there is more excitement to come.

Other Info/Context

  • This song was written as the title track for their documentary WE ARE Perfume – WORLD TOUR 3rd DOCUMENT, celebrating their 15th anniversary.
  • Check out my post on Perfume here.

© Isaku Takahashi

芳川よしの – Yoshikawa Yoshino

In a similar pattern to the way Lullatone designed their own brand of music called “pajama pop”, Tokyo producer 芳川よしの Yoshikawa Yoshino has followed the trend of conceptually develop a convenient ‘tagline’ for his creative output. By drawing up the term “ultrapop”, we will see what exactly makes his music the character Yoshikawa asserts.

His “ultrapop” music fully embraces the characteristic sounds of the futuristic internet-age, and perhaps making it more appealing to a younger audience. ‘I Feel You I Love You’ sees Yoshikawa stroll through a vibrant, bubbly synth pop ambience led by a android-processed vocal melody, spliced with an array of luminous synths enriching every little corner in the audible space, and a simple yet punctuating drumbeat laying a foreground of catchy pop sensation.

Yoshikawa’s love for cute, idol pop music comes through naturally in tracks like ‘Kawaii Candy’ and the sequel ‘Kawaii Macaron’. 8-bit chiptune forms the backdrop of ‘Kawaii Candy’ where the propulsion and the vibrant colours emitted from the synths and samples evenly match the pace and ambience of a classic cartridge game. ‘Kawaii Maracon’ is equally catchy in tempo and sonic shades, but adds an extra layer of cuteness with sampled cat meows and vocal chants. They both capture “kawaii” at its utmost sugary best.

ゆめたつグライダー Yumetatsu Glider, his latest EP released in 2014 sees Yoshikawa employ a crop of female singers with distinctively cute, sugarcoated vocal timbres. Title track ‘Yumetatsu Glider ft. Yuzusa’ is one of the less sonically rich, and instead leans more towards a pleasant hip-hop ballad vibe with the gentle piano, synth bass and drum backdrop. On the other hand, ‘Lovely Rainy Day ft. Noto is a quintessentially “ultrapop” number blasting an indulgent mix of musical and textural interest, and ‘Last Summer ft. Suzushiro’ conveniently sits on a stylistic middle ground between the tracks on either side of the EP, where the sugary vocals of Suzushiro is coated with sporadic sonic patterns.

Perhaps the most appealing thing about Yoshikawa is the way he incorporates commercial ‘J-Pop’ in his palette but avoids making his music sound tacky or purely fit for mainstream purposes. Yoshikawa’s music is both accessible for a wider audience, but also asserts a unique creative flair unmatched by anyone else.

Other Listening:

  • よしよし、サマー Yoshi Yoshi, Summer (Album collaboration with female singer Lovely Summer-chan)
  • Elysium
  • Tokyo Ft. LASTorder
  • To Be || Not
  • Les Chats

© Isaku Takahashi