Monday, March 4, 2019

Review: Good at Falling • The Japanese House



Don’t call Amber Bain mysterious... at least not anymore.

When she premiered her debut single on BBC Radio 1 in 2015, the anonymity behind Bain's solo project, The Japanese House, was part of her allure. Releasing music under a faceless moniker and boasting a voice that resides in the murky territory between masculinity and femininity, Bain conjured interest with ambient pop music that always left enough to the imagination. But four years later, Bain isn’t afraid to confront every last bit of her last relationship and commit the details to her debut full-length record – a shift in her status quo with gorgeous results.

Bain splatters realization, heartbreak, and healing across Good at Falling, a 13-track memorial of her relationship’s demise ("We Talk All The Time," "f a r a w a y," "somethingfartoogoodtofeel") and her depression's destruction ("You Seemed So Happy," "Everybody Hates Me"). Easily the record's most vital statements, "Lilo" captures the placidity of her past relationship with ease, while "Maybe You're the Reason" bounces her depression off a shield of love and a summery guitar. They suggest Bain had a degree of reliance on her girlfriend as a source of her own happiness, giving the record a reference point for the disbelief of "We Talk All the Time" or the devastation on "Follow My Girl."

Alongside Bon Iver producer BJ Burton and The 1975’s George Daniel, she stretches awe-striking, left-lane pop canvases upon which to paint her stories. Much like her friends and mentors in The 1975, she knows how to texture a sonic space and thrives in layers of deep, fluid sounds. Disorienting vocoders and pitch-shifts amplify her pain or apathy, oftentimes giving her a defensive glaze to her own emotions. As "Everybody Hates Me" and "Marika is Sleeping" blurs into one song, for example, her voice's robotic vibrato blurs the tracks' opposing hopelessness and introspection.

The record's opening track recounts her relationship's beginnings: Deep, commanding drums match the excitement of the quick flame. While the fire is sparked in an instant on "Went to Meet Her (Intro)," its embers cool to ashes slowly through the record's run. Much of Good at Falling copes with the finite existence to everything as an unavoidable fact of life, but by the record's finale, a stripped version of "I Saw You in a Dream," Bain finally accepts the thought of it. And as painful as it was for her to translate into song, the emotional processing of it all is absolutely stunning.

Good at Falling is available now under Dirty Hit Records.

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Maira Gall