Less than a minute after The Japanese House took the stage at the Teragram Ballroom, the vocals seemed to vanish into thin air. The absence of the signature deep voice coming from the stage of the Los Angeles venue was not a failure of an audio engineer but rather an overpowering welcome from the audience.
The Japanese House is 21-year-old Amber Bain. Although Bain has only released a few EPs over the past two years, the London-based artist has amassed a cult following. From the first song to the last, fans couldn’t help but sing (or scream) along. Kicking off her set with 2015 tune “Clean,” the young crowd started shouting “I was good.” The harsh audience sounds were in shocking contrast to dreamy, relaxed sound of The Japanese House.
Bain’s tunes are sumptuous, layered synth-pop textured with swirls and heavy pulses that are difficult to identify, but easy to feel deep in your chest. Bain revels in androgyny, keeping her voice low and drenched in vocoders. The style of affected vocals is nothing new, yet Bain’s music feels fresh and often surprising. The song structure can prove unpredictable. Take “Good Side In,” a slow moving number that feels like it’s about to build to a thick, climactic chorus, but instead fades to a quiet, flickering sound. The clipping—which sounds like a subdued shaker on the album and muted gunshots live—is a bit jarring, but it keeps listeners on their toes.
The young artist focuses on imagery in much of her lyrics, adding to the relaxed dream-like feel. Her latest EP, Swim Against the Tide, is filled with landscape descriptions, with flowing sounds to match. The lights at the Teragram matched well to Bain’s sound. Cool blues filled the venue for the melancholic title track of Swim Against the Tide, making the crowd appear to be floating through the ocean.
“Pools to Bathe In” also uses simple images to connect with listeners. The recording starts with what sounds like wind blowing (an effect not audible in a concert setting) but lyrics “I get such a rush with my head out the window” immediately takes listeners on a drive with Bain, enjoying a cool breeze. This song was a favorite of the night with Bain once again drowned out as fans shouted “Oh, I’m changing.”
Penultimate tune “Face Like Thunder” is the artist’s most radio-friendly tune to date. It’s bright, warm and impossible not to dance along to the beat. Plus, it includes a rockin’ guitar solo from Bain herself.
Bain ended the night with “Still,” a tune from her 2015 debut EP. Although this tune is one of her more forlorn, the gushing adoration from the audience made it feel upbeat. As she started to sing, fans handed over bouquets of red roses, creating a sweet, yet slightly awkward moment for Bain. Her dozens of flowers blocked access to her microphone. Luckily, her fans were more than happy to sing along.