When The Japanese House emerged in early 2015 with the hauntingly ethereal ‘Still’, she was the cause of mystification. Whilst many fell in love with the track, her lack of online profile and distorted, effect-coated vocals led many to question whether a male or female was behind the project. It soon surfaced that The Japanese House is the project name of 20 year old Londoner Amber Bain. She shares a record label (Dirty Hit records) with the likes of The 1975 and Wolf Alice, a promising omen, considering their success. In fact, she was introduced to the label by the former’s Matt Healy and George Daniel who have also handled the production of some of her material. Her cinematic, multi-layered and often haunting sound makes her work a compelling listen and has won her a legion of fans. Just a proportion of those were crammed into The Haunt in Brighton on Saturday evening.
She walks onstage timidly after her bandmates – a drummer and guitarist/keyboard player begin the oriental cascades of ‘Clean’. Her multi-layered sound translates well live and is cleverly achieved through frolicking between various guitars, synthesisers and various effect pedals, including a harmoniser pedal to achieve Bain’s dreamy vocoder-reminiscent vocals. Between songs, she keeps talk to a minimum and is fantastically shy but impossibly endearing.
The Japanese House steadily ventures through her complete eight song discography from both of her EP’s – ‘Pools to Bathe In’ and ‘Clean’ before treating fans to a bonus track, a new song called ‘Leon’ at the end of the show. A brilliant performance of downtempo, sullen ‘Still’ reminds the audience of what a mesmeric listen the track is. It was her debut record and it’s still one of her best with its thunderous percussion and R&B-influenced fragments.
Her melancholic electronica is quite an intense listen and at times it’s perhaps a little too over-bearing, her set crying out for one or two up-tempo tracks. This request is eventually met by the brilliantly catchy and ‘80’s-influenced ‘Cool Blue’ which arguably prompts the best response from the crowd. It’s understandable since it’s perhaps the most up-tempo track The Japanese House has released to date. It echoes Tears for Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule The World’ in terms of rhythm and slamming percussion but replaces the piano arpeggios with those of a guitar. It’s one of her best songs and it provides the audience with an opportunity to dance.
Despite the small-scale nature of the show, it is still atmospheric. Dim lighting and hazy smoke create the perfect accompaniment to The Japanese House’s introspective sound. Pulsating lights swing into action during the electronic drop in ‘Pools to Bathe In’ but aside from this, the music does the talking.
As the evening comes to an end, it’s clear that The Japanese House is certainly in possession of something special. Whilst collectively, her work overall feels it could do with the addition of one or two more substantial, up-tempo tracks, Amber Bain is certainly one to watch.