While Amber Bain, who goes by The Japanese House, writes of insecurity and doubt, her debut album is a show of unwavering confidence in her artistic ability.
For me, the first track, ‘went to meet her’, acts as a microcosm for the entire record. The song begins with Amber’s heavily auto-tuned voice stating ‘something’s wrong’ above a whole array of synths and off-beats; it feels completely alienating, strange and like she is putting her raw psyche on open display.
Suddenly, around the minute and twenty second mark, there’s a distinct moment of clarity. The song shifts gear and tone - it becomes melodic and full of decisive action. It’s as if Amber reminds herself of her songwriting sensibilities and regains control, packaging up her messy thoughts and transferring them into something more comprehensible and nuanced. The first half of the introduction feels like someone throwing ideas at a wall to see what sticks, while the second half of the track takes a more rational and measured approach – the latter approach being the driving force of the record as The Japanese House continues to solidify her sound.
From here, the tone of the record has been set. This feeling of the artist regaining both sonic and lyrical control over their work is continued as the introduction gradually blurs into the next track, ‘Maybe You’re the Reason’. Whereas the introduction begins sporadic and eventually focuses, this next track sounds completely like The Japanese House with the melodramatic lyricism and guitar-based grooves we’ve come to expect. From the opening, it’s clear that Amber has taken time to craft every inch of the record; it feels like a coherent vision, one in which Amber has rationally reflected on irrational thoughts and figured out the best way to translate it into music.
Good At Falling is an album which never ceases to be interesting, and is always presenting something different or innovative for the listener. It’s an accessible record which never strays too far into unknown territory, however, that isn’t to say that The Japanese House sounds like anyone else. Amber’s interplay of synth and guitar is something that is completely singular to her – take ‘We Talk All the Time’ and ‘Follow My Girl’ for example, the compressed brass-sounding synth on the latter being a personal highlight. These songs have an undeniable groove and sound completely self-assured in a musical sense, even if the lyrics are more melancholic in subject matter.
The Japanese House does make some departures from her previous work in this record, usually to great effect. There are more experimental cuts such as ‘Marika is Sleeping’ and ‘Everybody Hates Me’, the former having a fairly unconventional structure and the latter pushing the limits of Amber’s exploration of synthesisers as the song is driven by a grittier sound. Balancing out the unconventional with softer tracks, there are moments that slow the record down. In the middle, tracks like ‘Lilo’ and ‘somethingfartoogoodtofeel’ are by no means weak, but feel as if they could be more suited to the EP’s. They come off as less defined and somewhat directionless. Whereas the rest of the tracks groove harder or soak in buckets of atmosphere and melancholy, ‘Lilo and ‘somethingfartoogoodtofeel’ are left feeling slightly out of place.
The album does lift itself out of this slight slump, however, with ‘Worms’ and ‘faraway’ offering some of the stand out moments of the album. Both tracks feel incredibly playful, warm and fuzzy as Amber sings of naivety and optimism in love above light and airy synths: ‘Only a day old, but I know what love is’.
Good At Falling is a testament to how well The Japanese House has honed their sound over the last few years. Every moment, thought or musical note on the album feels incredibly personal and deliberate; it’s atmospheric, innovative and, most importantly, sounds like no one else.