Thekla, the Bristolian club-on-a-boat notorious for that infamous Skin’s scene with the engagement, the massive gang fight, and of course Cook’s rendition of that Barry Manilow song now is the very stage that hosts a very different vibe — The Japanese House. With the release of new music the 23 year old London based artist Amber Bain (The Japanese House) started her set following her fellow dream-pop support, Art School Girlfriend, to a full house. Coming onstage with her entourage adorned with her classic androgynous style, she opened the set with ‘Face like Thunder’ an atmospheric pop track which set the tone for the night: introspective, sway inducing and headnod heavy.
Though Bain seemed comfortable onstage, with some fan interaction and weaving in new songs such as ‘Lilo’ into her classic set — the performance felt a little static at times, often being pinned to her spot by her musical gadgets. And due to the nature of her tracks being heavily synth and vocoder laden, the ambience stayed on one level most of the night. Live her vocals did not quite match up to her recorded tracks, but that is no surprise given how clean they are in studio recordings. Some appreciation must be said for the fact that to replicate such lush production within her music, live, is difficult and when you are playing the guitar, operating the vocoder and effects machine and singing it is understandable you forget to work the stage. It must also be said that stylistically her performance is to be expected for shoegazing genres, and let’s be honest for this type of music you’re not to really expect mosh pits are you...
When she played fan favourites such as the Imogen Heap-esque ‘Saw you in a Dream’, and ended with ‘Clean’ from one of her early (2015) EP with the same title— a beautiful 5 minute electro pop number, things perked up. There was a small part of me hoping she would have played ‘Sugarpill’, the experimental ‘3/3’, or even the stripped back acoustic ‘Landslide’, nonetheless, it was a good choice to end the night on an uplifting note.
The Japanese House is a culmination of beautiful production, musical experimentation and intelligent vocal layering, however, it is left unclear whether the tracks could be fully replicated live without substantial support of backing tracks that may take away the integrity of the live performance. Thus, it is commendable that The Japanese House was able to produce a quality live regardless, that was understandably lacking in dynamism but still kept the authenticity of a live gig— given how highly stylized and electronically driven her music is.