When Amber Bain (better known by her moniker The Japanese House) started working on her debut album, 2019’s ‘Good At Falling’, she was in need of a co-producer. George Daniel – a long-time collaborator and drummer of The 1975 – with whom she’d worked with on most of her previous releases was tied up working on his band’s 2018 blockbuster ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’, so she needed somebody to fill his shoes.
Bain started looking into the production credits of her favourite albums to see who worked behind the scenes on them. One of these was Bon Iver‘s third album ’22, A Million’, which lead to her reaching out to BJ Burton, the production wonder who’s worked extensively with Justin Vernon, and resulted in Bain heading to Wisconsin to work on music at April Base, Vernon’s secluded recording studios.
This experience is brought full circle on Bain’s latest EP, ‘Chewing Cotton Wool’, which includes the Justin Vernon-featuring ‘Dionne’. Once again produced by Burton, it’s an amalgamation of gorgeous shimmering electronics and hazy layered vocals, fusing The Japanese House’s dreamy melodies with the glitchy production that permeated ’22, A Million’.
There’s a new sense of sureness in ‘Dionne’, too, something that’s echoed throughout the rest of ‘Chewing Cotton Wool’. Previous single, ‘Something Has To Change’, with its sing-a-long chorus and hand-clapped beats, is a pop smash cloaked in swirling synths. The minimalist title track sees Bain examine the memory of a lost loved one (“She’s the sound of your own voice / She’s someone else’s drink”) as electronic sounds trickle in the background. ‘Sharing Beds’, built around subtle piano lines and vocoded vocals, evokes The 1975’s glitchier moments.
‘Good At Falling’ was filled with gut-punch moments (on ‘We Talk all the Time’ Bain honestly states: “We don’t fuck anymore / But we talk all the time so it’s fine”), and her lyricism shines again here. Take ‘Dionne’’s incisive assessment of a relationship: “I’ve been thinking about / My storyline / And how your past becomes your present if it’s always on your mind”.
‘Chewing Cotton Wool’ is an elevation of Bain’s sound. It’s a short collection, but one brings the last few years of music of The Japanese House full circle, while pushing to the future with its lush sounds and huge, radio-ready hooks. Short but sweet, it’s another indication of the avant-pop maven Bain’s poised to become.
Release date: August 12
Record label: Dirty Hit