everyone likes by illiomote

Released: 23.03.15 | Label: SPILD

illiomote is a band we’ve looked at once before in 2022. That track, A.O.U, left me wanting but interested in the group so here we are checking out a song from their latest album HMN</3. Let’s see what they’ve made for us today!

Well, it’s a little bit more dynamically interesting than before. I really like the break down idea they went with, but overall the rest of the track was lackluster. I’m not a fan of the weird grooves they’ve mashed together here, and I think it might be the same copy/paste issue I saw last time. There are definitely some mix problems, but beyond that there’s just not enough work on the arrangements in the different sections. I had thought they were being minimalist before, but now I’m starting to think they just aren’t putting in the time. Disappointing. And probably the last time you’ll see them on this list for a while.

Verdict: Skip (1.4/5)

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Take That ! feat. TENDRE by Tomita Lab.

Released: 23.03.08 | Label: Speedstar

Tomita Lab. has a new collaboration out! And it comes with a strange and honestly kind of creepy music video! Let’s watch.

This song is somehow way happier than it should be given what each part is doing. It’s got that signature wackiness that Tomita Labs. always brings to the music, (we’ve reviewed him before if you remember) but mixed in with the smoothest and calmest voice ever à la TENDRE. This is a combination I didn’t know I wanted, but hearing it together made it seem so obvious. Definitely worth your time, but be warned that this is a love it or hate it kind of situation.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.5/5)

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Released: 22.10.19 / Label: Self Released

TOKYO OX ISSUE is a newer electropop duo hailing from, of course, Tokyo. The duo is made up of model and actress Hinata Kohinata on vocals, and classically trained pianist Shu Katayama on keys. They made a bit of a ripple with their first album, it featured an impressive mastering engineer adding his talents to the lead single (which sounded amazing). But since then it seems like the going has been a bit rough. This track is from their 2nd, and latest, EP “cupola” but it hasn’t seemed to have made as much of an impact. Is it just bad timing, or is the music just not up to snuff? Spoiler: it was probably both.

This track is a bop in its own right, if a bit dated. I feel like the electropop duo thing has been a bit done to death in Japan, and while I enjoy the esoteric piano parts that make this group unique, it’s not enough to really set them apart. The track has got a nice pop groove and some really interesting melodies and solo sections. Hinata’s voice is spectacular here, clear and crisp with a cute tone throughout. It’s exactly the right style of singing for this kind of music. The keyboards are great as well, Shu is having a lot of fun with different pop phrases throughout. But the song suffers from a lack of focus, too many disparate sections and a sense of wandering that muddles the track’s flow. I feel like there’s at least two good songs worth of material here, and it probably should have been split up. The mix is a bit rough as well. Normally not a problem with indie groups, but this track pales in comparison to the lead single from their last album. So a bit of a let down with this release. But I’m looking forward to hearing them grow, and I can’t wait to hear what their next album holds.

Verdict: Take it or leave it (2.5/5)

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Easy by KOMONO LAKE feat. gb

Released: 22.07.27 / Label: Self-released

KOMONO LAKE is an entirely modern three piece group from the Tokyo area. Consisting of a vocalist, a bassist, and a track maker/DJ. Their sound is heavily electric. The production is top notch, but what really makes them stand out are the strong vocals and creative bass lines that accent their music. Today’s track is a bit on the lighter side, and sounds fit for inclusion on a Katamari Damacy soundtrack. The production is fantastic, somehow finding a catchy combination of adorable and cool. The groove is a slower Latin-feel that really gives the singer and bassist room to shine. The bassist has some tasty licks throughout the tune, but the vocals are the standout here. The clear tone and straight pop style of singer Kanbin gives the song direction and really cements the groove. Sadly the rap section from guest gb seems out of place here. It may be a mix issue, but I’m thinking it’s more a groove issue. He’s gone with a smoother approach that just doesn’t mesh with the track. The rap is quality though. I’d like to hear them do a collab again in the future on a different track.

Verdict: Worth your time. (3.5/5)

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Naive Triangle by Pvrvllel

Released: 22.07.20 / Label: Self-released

Pvrvllel is the name of music producer duo Masa Tamaki and Kazuki Sugiyama. The v’s in the name make me think their music may be more on the artsy side, but we’ll see. Today’s track “Naive Triangle” dropped as a single on Bandcamp on July 15th, and was released to stream on the 20th. I’m always happy to see more Japanese groups using bandcamp, it’s not as popular here as it should be.

While a little dated, this track gets a lot right with the EDM mood its going for. The sounds are all beautifully crafted, especially the bass and drums, giving the groove a strong foundation. It definitely makes you want to move and would be a great dance track in any lounge or house set. The vocals are chopped up samples of a female singer from somewhere. Definitely cliche at this point, but if it works it works. Here it’s great for about 75% of the song, but it gets just a bit annoying at the end. Fans of this kind of music might not find a new hit, but it definitely works as playlist filler. Naive Triangle is dance track that gets the job done. While the style is dated, they get everything right here. Worth a listen for EDM fans.

Verdict: Worth your time. (3.1/5)

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When You Fake Sleep by Fake Creators

Released: 22.07.06 / Label: I want the moon, not records

Talk about an awesome album cover. I have no idea what I’m looking at, but its both beautiful and unnerving. This is a new group, but it’s actually a project by two names that may be familiar to you. Let me explain…

Fake Creators is a new collaborative project between artists LITE and DE DE MOUSE. LITE is a well known four-piece Japanese instrumental rock band. They’ve been together for almost 20 years, and have made a name for themselves as killer musicians and pioneers of the complex math-rock genre. They’ve teamed up with DE DE MOUSE, a keyboard playing DJ who has made an art of combining world and club music. He’s brought his unique live performances on tour all over the world, and done collaborations with artists from many different fields.

I was already a big fan of each group individually, so the two groups having come together to form an entirely new project is super exciting. I can’t wait to see what they’ve made together, so let’s take a listen and find out!

When You Fake Sleep is equal parts calm and frenetic, with literally no transition between the two moods. It definitely peaked my interest from the get go. The soft guitar chords and clock-like rhythm lulled me into a sense of peace, only to have the song take off with an insane amount of chaotic energy. The B sections are all fast rhythmic phrases and bass lines that sound almost organic. Everything is linked together with a strange, spliced vocal line that seems like it has something to say, but never quite gets there.

I love the sound design they’ve used here. They’ve managed to get a really beautiful blend of both rock band and electronic production. Organic sounds and contrasting sections aren’t a new idea, though. This track reminds me a lot of what Bjork was doing 10 years ago with Biophilia. It is nice to hear a version of those ideas in Japan in 2022.

I enjoyed the song overall, but there are definitely areas that feel lacking given the experience these artists have. The two chord approach to the songwriting is disappointing. I think with a more complex harmonic base the song would have felt more developed. As it is, I don’t think there’s enough being said here to justify the second half of the song. After the first big explosive break they repeat back into the soft section and basically play the whole song again, but without adding anything or developing any of the ideas. So the track ends up feeling stretched to fill out a full length song. That being said, I definitely like the direction they’re heading and I hope to hear more in the future.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.3/5)

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A.O.U by illiomote

Released: 22.07.06 / Label: SPILD

What an interesting choice for an album cover. I wonder if they make a physical copy of the album will the disc will have the same print as above? Or maybe they’ll release without a cover? Intriguing. A.O.U is the lead single for illiomote‘s new album, side_effects+, dropping on July 27th. (That’s right, I’m way ahead of the release this time!) But I don’t know anything about this band yet, so let’s do some digging!

This relatively new duo is based in Tokyo and have been making music since 2019. Members YOCO and MAIYA have been friends since kindergarten. After getting their start on YouTube, the two have released one full album along with several EPs and singles. So they’ve been busy the last three years, and they’re showing no sign of slowing down. They mention in their bio that their music ranges from rock to pop, so let’s see what kind of song they’ve decided to create for us today.

An interesting club sound to this track. It’s a very minimal electronic arrangement with some really beautiful vocals on top. I’m loving the voice, and the harmony work is really well done as well. The chorus synth work is also really light and easy to listen to. The track overall has a lightness to it that’s rare for this style in Japan. I’m used to a really busy arrangement, so the relaxed mood here is refreshing. It does start to feel a bit like sample loop city at the halfway point. It’s clear that they’ve got an idea of where they want to go, but maybe they aren’t quite sure how to get there yet.

A.O.U also suffers from a lack of dynamic contrast in the parts, which is typical of this kind of loop based electronic arrangement. Sadly it means the song feels a bit flat overall and lacks any real climax. The mix doesn’t help here either. While the instruments are placed well and the atmosphere the track creates is admirable, it’s a very stagnant sound. I think with a bit more panning or playing with stereo space the track would come to life. Definitely room for improvement, but that will all come with experience and time. They’ve got the groove and melody down, so I’m excited to hear how the album sounds when it releases later this month.

Verdict: Take it or leave it (2.8/5)

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HERO JOURNEY (feat. Superorganism) by CHAI

Released: 22.07.06 / Label: Sub Pop

Well this is a unique collaboration I didn’t know I wanted but I’m certainly glad to have. This is the edge of Indie territory, but seeing as this is a Sub Pop release focused around a Japanese artist (and I want to listen to it) we’re going to give it a pass.

CHAI is a unique J-Indie group that have made a name for themselves both inside and outside of Japan from early in their career. The four member group formed in 2012 in Nagoya. After some local success they moved to Tokyo in 2016 to pursue music full time. The all-female group met in high school and have been making music together since. The music they make is hard to put in a genre, I’ve seen “whimsical” or “experimental pop” thrown around a lot and I like those. They’ve done a lot of touring worldwide, some great collaborations, and have a really good Tiny Desk concert. If you haven’t seen that it’s definitely worth watching. It seems they’ve signed with Sony as of January this year (2022), so this review will likely be the first and last time you see them on this blog. Time will tell.

Superorganism is its own beast of a band, and I won’t be going into detail on them but they’re definitely worth checking out. See their website above for more info. Now, let’s check out what these groups have created together.

Well, that was a lot to unpack. For being such a short song they really crammed a lot in. So the basis of HERO JOURNEY is that CHAI is a group of heroes that are going to save the world, hence the child’s drawing of the group as superheroes for the album art. CHAI opens the track with a little mixed language rap that’s very hard to understand. For touring the world it’s surprising that they still haven’t learned English. But language issues aside, the music is kicking and the chorus really pops with a super happy groove and fun mix of CHAI and Superorganism synth work. The second and third verses are handled by Superorganism, which means CHAI is really only singing the chorus sections. This balance works really well for the song, but as a CHAI release it’s a strange choice. The song does get a nice dynamic shift in the middle when superorganism takes over, and the lyrics finally make sense.

I’m surprised to hear CHAI sound so much like PERFUME in this song. The flat melody line they sing shifts their sound completely and the music ends up having more of an impact than the vocals. It ends up sounding more like a Superorganism song than a CHAI song. And while the lyrics are about CHAI saving the world, that doesn’t change the arrangement of the track. It does make me wonder what section of music was composed by each band. It’s always interesting when groups doing electronic music work together, because it’s very hard to tell where that line is.

Verdict: Worth your time (3.6/5)

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mayonnaise by ego apartment

Released: 22.06.01 / Label: NihyakuWIND

I think “mayonnaise” is the best song title I’ve heard in a long time. I’m already invested and need to know what this is about. I wish this song had it’s own unique artwork but sadly this is just a single from a full album, so we have to look at plums.

It’s time to give ego apartment another chance at a review. I reviewed their song FOG almost a month ago when the blog was just starting out, and a lot has changed since then. For my part, the review style has shifted a bit to be more broad and music focused. For their part, they got a shiny new website up and running and their album has finally dropped! The self-titled but all-caps album “EGO APARTMENT” has found moderate success, with a couple tracks really taking off. I’m definitely interested to hear some of their more popular music, so let’s dive in and see what kind of song they could have possibly written about mayonnaise.

That was so creative and fun! What an absolute joy of a jam they set up here. Really creative grooves, fun lyrics, great pacing, interesting melodic ideas and rhythms in the vocals. This is way better than the last track I heard of theirs. I can definitely hear the time and care that went into this track, which was my big issue with FOG. Where that song sounded rushed and rough around the edges, its clear that each section and instrument here was carefully crafted and perfected here.

I still have an issue with the bad English, but they really cleaned it up a lot this time around so it’s much easier to listen to. That the second vocalist has perfect pronunciation though, and the gap between the two is still jarring to hear. Hopefully that’s something they work out by their next album.

Speaking of sounds, they use a ton of them here. There are guitars, funk basses, sub basses, keyboards, percussion of all kinds, multiple vocal layers. It’s a huge project and it all works together seamlessly. I would really love to know more about their production process, who had what ideas, how they recorded them, all of it. Also a vibraslap. Respect for any band that knows where to place a vibraslap. But all around a stellar job on the mixing this time.

Verdict: Must Listen (4/5)

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Dystopia feat. AAAMYYY by Tomita Lab.

Released: 22.06.29 / Label: Speedstar

Stained glass imagery as an album cover is usually a good sign. We’re approaching the upper limits of the indie classification again by reviewing this song, but judging by the lack of attention for this release, I think it still classifies as J-Indie. These artists have about 30 years combined experience in the industry, so I’m excited to take a look. Let’s see who’s behind Dystopia first.

Tomita Lab. is the solo project of prolific Japanese producer Tomita Keiichi. 2022 marks his 20th year working in the industry, and even at 60 years old he’s still going strong. The majority of his work is as a producer, but he’s also contributed as a composer and arranger for many albums throughout his career. His most recent release “7+” features 20 guest performers and is where we get today’s track. Dystopia features vocals by artist AAAMYYY from the psychedelic rock band Tempalay. We’ll go into more detail about her work when we review her music, but she’s a force to be reckoned with in the music scene in Japan. All this to say that, with two powerhouses working together my expectations for this track are set pretty high. Let’s take a listen and see what they’ve made.

For a song called Dystopia that was an absolute joy to listen to. AAAMYYY’s smoky vocals are a perfect match for the percussive and almost frantic energy of Tomita’s track. The first half is off the wall in just about everyway, bubbly bass sounds, lo-fi piano parts, and sweeps shoved in all over the place keep the groove on its toes. The vocal line is simple, very pop oriented, and anchors the listener firmly in the pocket of the groove.

Then, out of nowhere, the parts switch roles completely in the second half of the song. The music calms down into a tight funk groove, restructuring themes and allowing the vocals to start exploring their full range. I absolutely love the change and was invested in where the track was headed, but the ending felt somehow lacking. They fake a return to the songs earlier themes but then hit the escape button and the track ends. It works in its own way as a surprise, but it felt like there was a better way it could have been done.

The only downside of this track is how overdeveloped it really is. The sounds and the melodic phrases are pushed to near breaking with complexity in some sections, which some listeners may find to be too much. It was a lot even for me. I usually listen to the songs on repeat while writing but I had to stop this one on my third pass so that I could concentrate. So it’s great for when you can listen actively, but it demands too much attention to work as background music.

Verdict: Must listen (4/5)

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