In the era of selfies and insta, Amber Bain (aka The Japanese House) has kept a bit of mystery about her. Pick any song on one of her EPs – “Clean” or the newly released “Pools to Bathe In” – and you hear an androgynous voice (sometimes more girl than boy, sometimes more boy than girl) weaving in and out of synth layers and echoes of trip-hop-pop.
She told DIYmag last September that she’s kind of tickled by the fact that people couldn’t tell whether she was a girl or boy. I thought it was important to make it just about the music.
Last Friday at Plan B (the venue formerly known as the GoodGod Small Club) we got to take a closer look inside of Bain’s world and loved what we found. What’s fascinating about The Japanese House is the fine line she treads between minimalism and detail – her music is in one moment a clean kind of raw, and in another, epically intricate. There is a stillness and peace and control that suddenly (and fleetingly) erupts into a beautiful mess that gets swallowed back up again as if it were never there.
In the past week I’ve been trying to decide when the best time is to listen to her – when I’m trying to relax and wind down, or when I’m bursting out of my skin? Her music moves with a force that’s like a slow motion avalanche.
Whether intentional or not, playing with gender in her vocals is a lovely experiment in itself. But Bain takes it a step further and toys with presence and space, and this is most obvious when seeing her on stage. She splits her vocals so there’s one of her, or twenty of her, and her voice gets thrown so she’s sometimes behind you, in front of you or beside you.
Personally, EP highlights are ‘Sister’ and ‘Cool Blue’, but there’s no need to be choosy; it’s the sort of music you can envelope yourself in.
*Words and photography by Claire Benito.
The Japanese House – 15th January, 2016
Plan B (formerly GoodGod Small Club)