Album review: The Japanese House – Good at Falling

John Preston

Speculation as to who was behind The Japanese House began to mount due to the exceptional lack of promotional material available and at one point was rumoured to be Matt Heeley. The Japanese House is elusive British singer-songwriter Amber Bain, who has been making EPs since 2015. Good at Falling is her long-time-coming debut album.

With a mass of electronics, bass, occasional acoustic guitar and an unexpected country twang just around its edges, this is a record that could have released at any time over the last 20-years. It’s modern-sounding, certainly, but with an eye cast back at a recent past rather than the more experimental and visceral future of electronic music.

Bain’s vocals are doubled up, rich with harmonies, autotuned and sometimes left unadorned as she sings about her relationship with (now) ex-partner Marika Hackman and her own struggles with drinking and depression. The subtle and predominantly introverted soundstage however means Good at Falling sounds a lot less overwhelming emotionally than you might expect.

The more mainstream smoothness of songs like ‘Lilo’ and ‘Follow My Girl’ are electro-lite and would also work if following an acoustic template, but Bain’s command of samplers and mood means she comes off as a new Imogen Heap – something bolstered by the sometimes uncanny similarities in both artists’ voices.

‘somethingfartogoodtofeel’ positively thrums and twangs, strings pop up and there is an eclectic richness that recalls mid-career Kate Bush. ‘Everybody Hates Me’, with its constant piano motif and rugged, gnarly synth line which appears in the song’s chorus, is a far more interesting and ambitious representation of Bain’s talents.

‘Marika Is Sleeping’ has harp, strings and a circular ‘you think far too much’ refrain which expands into a pillowy, chamber-pop groove., Where early The Japanese House were haunted and glitchy, but anonymously detached, Bain has revealed more of herself than ever before here and her music is all the better for it.

Good at Falling cracks open the door and successfully allows Bain to make an impressive and compelling connection.

About John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.