Amber Bain’s solo project, the Japanese House, has been billed as many different things, from electronic pop to avant-garde. But the best way to characterize it is as an interwoven web of influences and sounds. It is evident that Bain puts countless hours into the production side of the record, often layering multiple tracks of vocals and synthesizers that each contain various effects, such as vocoders and modulation.
However, though the production is balanced and well put together, Clean, Bain’s second EP release of 2015, presents an often hazy and light feel to it, mainly due to Bain’s vocal work. Bain wanders, casually speaking in an unfiltered and often repetitive manner. This is most notable on “Sugar Pill,” which contains a heavy barrage of oohhs and ahhs. Those who prefer music with strong vocal presence may not find this record appealing, as for the most part, the lyrics and vocal melodies are used more as a textural element on top of the instruments, rather than being the driving hook.
Though this is the case through much of Clean, it does not take away from the lyrics — though the concept of love is broad, Bain approaches the topic through a lens of bittersweet recollection and self-doubt towards the feeling. Lines such as “And I knew it wouldn’t last / But in the clean light you cast I was good,” from the title track, “Clean,” and “I thought they knew / I’m fickle and slow and I’ll never do,” from “Cool Blue” capture an awkward uncertainty and anxiety that has connected with listeners — some proclaimed Bain one of 2015’s “overnight successes.”
As mentioned, Clean seemingly is on the more eclectic side of the pop genre, but if you’ve found something to like in acts like Vancouver Sleep Clinic and Bon Iver, The Japanese House should be a welcome addition to your musical library.