Tickets to see breakout UK synthpop group The Japanese House at The Echo on Wednesday night were hard to come by. I felt lucky to come across a face value ticket on Twitter earlier in the day.
Fresh off supporting The 1975 on a tour across large-scale arenas, it’s clear that their popularity saw an uptick. Amber Bain is the person behind The Japanese House and at just 20 years old, she’s quite adept at crafting heartwrenching songs.
I first caught The Japanese House early on one of the days at Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Festival this past May. I was walking by their set at the fest’s smallest stage and was immediately drawn in by Bain’s powerful harmonies.
You couldn’t have asked for a better venue for her sound. I often am not a fan of how The Echo’s sound affects certain acts as it can drown out the vocals with heavy bass. Bain’s vocals are impossible to drown out, as there’s an incredible depth to them thanks to the layering effect that helped make Imogen Heap widely popular in the early aughts.
Bain has released three EPs, with production credits from The 1975’s Matty Healy. Though I’m far from The 1975’s biggest fan, credit to them for helping bring more exposure to the magical music of Bain – she deserves it. When she launched into her set promptly at 10 PM, you could hear a pin drop during the most impassioned moments.
As Bain and her bandmates took the stage, three bouquets of flowers were handed directly to her from the crowd, catching the singer-songwriter slightly off guard.
By virtue of the multiple layers and powerful songwriting, Bain’s words hit you right in the gut. In “Letter by the Water,” for instance – the chorus washes over you. The tight confines of The Echo gave it an even more powerful punch than on record.
One underrated part of The Japanese House’s sound is the percussion. George Daniel is behind the drum kit and gives the band’s sound that little extra that separates them from being just another synthpop band. It actually reminds me a bit of the percussion from fellow UK singer-songwriter Ben Howard’s live sound.
Bain’s lone release in 2016 was the Swim Against the Tide EP. She played her entire repertoire that can currently be found on Spotify. Standout moments were “Cool Blue” and “Face Like Thunder” as those two tracks saw the crowd able to respond with the most dancing. There was quite a dance circle for the latter song, which came past the midpoint of the show.
Her performance and output to this point have us looking forward to her full-length debut as much as any other in 2017.
Opening the show was London all-girl garage rockers The Big Moon. I caught the second half of their set and came away pretty impressed, particularly after realizing this band has been together less than two years. The vocals were a bit tough to make out from my vantage point – the tricky part with sold-out shows at The Echo.
The standout song from what I heard was “Sucker” – it had this killer guitar riff that screamed late ‘90s alt-rock to me in the vein of Spacehog or Soul Asylum. They’re definitely another band to keep an eye on for 2017.
Photo courtesy of Ivan Rhivanz / Ellenwood-EP.