Amber Bain, better known by her stage alias The Japanese House, has spent the past three years establishing herself with a brand of personal, perplexing alt-pop.
2015’s double EP drop of Pools to Bathe In and Clean demonstrated the two varying ends of an intriguing spectrum. Their title tracks were wildly different, the first a sweet string number that collapses in on itself, sentiment smashed by twitching electronic beats. Meanwhile, ‘Clean’ was more straight-down-the-line sad-pop, that pulled desperately at the heart on your sleeve, the anguish masked in hazy electronica.
Fast forward four years and we arrive at her anticipated debut album Good At Falling. This is an artist continuously experimenting through the genres of folk, shoe-gaze and dream-pop; the collection is diverse and engaging with an overall theme of innocent romanticism running throughout. The racing ‘You Seemed so Happy’ - clocking in just over two minutes - is a buoyant, joyful number as Amber cynically comments how “these things don’t happen to anybody like you”. ‘Follow My Girl’ details the turbulence of seeking divine direction at a young age, Bain resolving herself to pursue love above all else.
Her tendency to stray from convention is still present throughout Good At Falling. The metronome-like piano chords of ‘Everybody Hates Me’ steadily walk into an onslaught of 80s synth and vocal distortions. ‘Marika Is Sleeping’ is a sweeping, dramatic string-led number before psychedelic guitars and curious electronic additions interrupt Amber’s pondering on a past love. Marika is the subject of a high point in the record, the devastating ‘Lilo’. An inanimate object suddenly forced to bear the weight on an entire failed relationship. The accompanying cinematic video features Bain’s collaborator and ex-lover, displaying the soul sinking, tenderness of love in 4k resolution.
It is however on ‘Somethingfartoogoodtofeel’ that The Japanese House delivers her most poignant track to date. It is an epic hymnal detailing the darkest depths of hopeless love. It's constructed from brittle strings and numerous jittering external components including upset violin notes and rumbling, hollow drums. Its held together by somber, visceral confessionals “we let our heads caves in”, “I always feel the worst that I can”, “I’ll sacrifice the love I grew”. It’s deeply affecting whilst achieving strange euphoria, the giddying joy we all experience when we are wounded from love.
After almost half a decade of output, including earth-rumbling singles such as ‘Face Like Thunder’ and ‘Teeth’, it would have been an easy route for this young songwriter to package them into a debut with a selection of new additions. Instead we have 13 tracks to wander through and empathise with. Amber Bain has created a record of complete honesty, offering us a first-hand account of the highs and lows she has experienced whilst traversing modern relationships.