Amber Bain is the young Londoner behind The Japanese House. After that, there’s not much more to know: Bain’s kept things private in her short but meteoric career to date, choosing to shy away from a big media personality told through the haze of a thousand of Instagram selfies. And because of this, her new EP Clean – which is like a short, sharp dive beneath the waters of electro pop – is refreshing in more ways than one.
The 20-year-old has been on the fast-track to fame following debut EP Pools To Bathe In earlier this year. Her single ‘Still’ was Zane Lowe’s final Hottest Record on Radio 1, and she counts label mates Marika Hackman and The 1975 – who even help co-produce her two EPs to date – as friends. It’s no wonder big things are happening for Bain, and they’re happening fast.
Clean is beautiful but otherworldly, like a distant planet. Bain creates syrupy sonic tapestries with layers upon layers of vocal harmonies, tweaked with heavy equalizers to sound something like Lorde on steroids. Tracks flow organically but take turns you don’t expect, and without clear choruses or verses, like in the title track, you can’t help but let the music wash over you.
The vocal fog of ‘Clean’ clears in ‘Cool Blue’, opting for a more structured sound. But this is still The Japanese House after all, and things are rich and intricate but grounded by a soft guitar melody. The accompanying video – featuring a European summer and skateboards tinted in blue – adds to the track’s sense of nostalgia and release.
‘Letter By The Water’ follows with Bain’s fixation on water. “Current come pull me down/I won’t take a breath, I wanna drown” she cries, as more vocals swell to the track’s surface. Deep electronic beats build from an acoustic guitar refrain, which feels like ‘Cool Blue’ and, in this way, helps the EP take on a bigger and more cohesive sound.
‘Sugar Pill’ is a little different. Something about Bain’s almost singular voice in this track makes it more intimate, compared to the cluttered (but breathtaking) layers in the rest of the EP. The mystery is drawn in a little too, and for the first time, listeners are offered a diluted vision of The Japanese House. With bittersweet melodies and grimy synths, it’s an ideal way to wrap things up.
Who is The Japanese House? In an interview with DIY, she said “… I didn’t want the mystery to become bigger than the music; I’m not wearing a balaclava. And I’m not Daft Punk – they must have really sore shoulders by now.” This about sums things up: with tunes this rich and distinctive, it doesn’t really matter who she is. And really, in the Instagram age, isn’t it a good thing? If Bain’s music continues to speak for her, as loudly as it has been, this won’t be the last you’ll hear.
Clean EP is out now.