Album Review: The Japanese House - 'Good At Falling'

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Nearly four years after first showing up on the music scene, The Japanese House treats the listener like her own private diary in the release of her debut album, ‘Good at Falling’.

The Japanese House started as an androgynous, anonymous alias for North London’s Amber Bain, who was the artist that Zane Lowe chose to play for his last ever ‘Hottest Record’ on his final radio show. It was a slow start for Amber to get to the confidence that she now has, within her musical creation. She was only 19 when she released her first single despite playing music for many years – first learning songs on the guitar at 11, with her dad. Now Amber is 23 and after releasing numerous EP’s and taking the time to figure out who she is as an artist, she has finally decided that it is time for the world to hear the bigger picture.

Good at Falling is an exploration of the body’s feelings after a break-up that was mutual, and how to come to terms with the confusing and funny feelings. On first listen, it is almost difficult to decipher where each song starts and another leaves off – the album has been produced in a way so it seems to be a 44-minute body of work that has its peaks and troughs. The synth-bath of ‘went to meet her (intro)’ oscillates at a mellow pace before transitioning to ‘Maybe You’re the Reason’ which has the same sound running through the intro. It is distinct enough to note that throughout this album, Amber uses less vocal distortion than previously on her EP’s. There is a more direct conversation with the listener, that comes with time and confidence.

One of the most talked about songs on the album is ironically called ‘We Talk all the Time’. It drenched in a staccato of drum beats and a pendulum-style rhythm that goes from deep bass synth notes, to octaves of funkier lines. The song has a raw honesty that is at times shocking – “we don’t fuck anymore, but we talk all the time”, Amber sings about trying to keep a friendship with her ex. This trails into the atmospheric relief of ‘Wild’ which is an amalgamation of those metallic and distant computer sound-effects not too far off of Sigur Ros and James Blake. Where ‘Follow My Girl’ is an upbeat summer jam filled with jazzy licks, in the style of Tom Misch, ‘somethingfartoogoodtofeel’ and ‘i saw you in a dream’ are an exploration into the magic of composition with the strings that flourish in the background around the more acoustic body. 

The more interesting parts of the album come in the less direct songs. ‘Everybody Hates Me’ is a mesmerising multi-layered take on your self-loathing being reflected on the experiences you have with everyone around you – “the sky seems clear; I can only see the clouds.” Whilst the chorus has a kaleidoscopic explosion of chill-wave, it is a piano ballad which perfectly complements the slightly robotic Willy Wonka dreamscape that opens up ‘Marika is Sleeping’. “You’re always changing; re-arranging; calibrating; you think far too much” Amber sings with her multi-layered harmonics. There is a tropical quality that comes off with the spritely guitar riff that litters the mostly-instrumental song – it feels as though this is a peek into the multiverse of Amber’s mind and how many different ideas may be happening all at once.

Words by Tyler Damara Kelly