Gig Review: The Japanese House at Camden Barfly
By now, you’ll have heard all about the hotly tipped, forward-thinking electro-pop mind-blower, better known as The Japanese House. Dubbed ‘elusive’ and ‘mysterious’ by lazy journalism because she didn’t use her name or image, 20 year old Amber Bain has been causing quite a frenzy within the muso community; not many people cut their teeth live with a Maida Vale session recorded for Radio 1’s Phil Taggart.
Last night (15.10.2015) saw her first (official) London show, to a sold out Camden Barfly at the end of a first UK headline tour. Live, The Japanese House is three-person project, with Bain leading on layered, Justin Vernon-esque vocals, guitar, some synth, and a plethora of pedals at her feet. Opening with the title track of forthcoming EP ‘Clean’, Bain took a bit of time to settle into her stride: a struggle with technical difficulties preoccupied her vocal somewhat and seemed to resurface in the ghostly breakdown in ‘Pools To Bathe In’. Yet these slight hitches only help to highlight how raw-a-talent The Japanese House is – earnest and authentic, a fortifying reminder of what it is to be truly excited by an artist.
‘Teeth’ and ‘Cool Blue’ (a perfectly crafted pop tour de force) showed off Bain’s prowess on guitar, with the beautifully melancholy ‘Sugar Pill’ commanding a pall-like silence from the crowd, making them stop filming and actually watch…quite the achievement these days. Bain sings every word like she really means it, soul-stirring poetry wrapped up in electronic washes, harmonies and skittish guitar: ‘you can use my rib-cage as a pillow//It doesn’t suit me//I feel flimsy when I grin.’ Unorthodox, off-kilter drum-beats (which Bain writes herself) anchor each track, with drummer Freddy Sheed perfectly balancing live drums and SPD pad. Finally, Sister: happily into their stride, it felt like the band really poured their hearts into their final song. The vocal seems to be the focal point of this track – heavy with layers of Bain’s voice, and underpinned by sulky synths whilst interspersed with brighter snaps of guitar, you can’t help but hang on to every devastating word.
Mastermind behind every aspect of The Japanese House, Bain is an artist in purest sense of the word. This is only the beginning of something much, much bigger.