It’s fair to say that The 1975’s Matty Healy has a keen ear even for his own songs, but when he picked up on Amber Bain’s solo project of The Japanese House, it must have been fantastic to imagine sharing a stage in sold-out arenas years later, which he and the group did with the Dirty Hit protege.
The Japanese House is a fuller sounding concept than you might imagine, boasting bass, drums, and a keyboard player to back her up. The sound is a unique mix of androgynous vocoder funnelled vocals that make it difficult to tell who Bain is, something she has noted before as feature that allows fans to focus on other aspects of the songs.
Holding a right-handed guitar, upside down so to play left-handed instead is an unusual but not exactly new concept. It is the finer aspects of this onstage presence that make the tracks stand out and the band too. We dive into ‘Still’, ‘Cool Blue’, and ‘Swim Against the Tide’. Only a few EPs to rely on, the songwriting is A1 and the rough edges that appear are welcome.
If there is one thing about the affectionate and deep meaning to these tracks is that they never get going or build energy. Everytime a song gathered pace and finished with a flurry, it seemed the sheer amount of on stage technical mapping was too complicated to rely on or relax with. As shy as Amber Bain is, there doesn’t seem to be a comfortable moment in-between tracks, and the atmosphere drops before picking up again in a vicious cycle.
Towards the end, there are some confident gestures from ‘Leon’ and ‘Face Like Thunder’. Perhaps its early days, maybe it was the distracting photographer using a flash, but something was missing from tonight’s performance. It really seemed like a venue that would have been perfect for The Japanese House, but it just did not flow on this occasion.