Amber Bain’s (otherwise known as The Japanese House) presence on the music scene has been sorely missed. After a year of silence, Bain’s return to the airwaves – and the stage – is welcomed with both open arms and eager ears. Finishing off a nationwide tour ahead of her debut album Good at Falling (set for release early next year), the Gorilla performance shows the artist at her most powerful yet. It’s a night of intimacy, melancholy and poise but also that of confidence and a self-assuredness that solidifies The Japanese House as one of the moment’s most important acts.
There is most definitely an enigmatic atmosphere to The Japanese House, and this hangs inside the venue as audiences sway in anticipation. Support from Art School Girlfriend (Polly Mackey) with her dark, electronic synths helps create a hypnotic, trance-like ambience. It was a truly wonderful choice of support.
Bathed in a sea of soft pinks and lilacs, Bain, alongside her new live band, emerge on to the stage. There’s immediately a more confident aura surrounding the front-woman, who moves around with a fresh sense of versatility and swagger – qualities that older performances lacked. Usually more subdued, here it is apparent that Bain has really come in to her own and it’s a pleasure to watch. The addition of her new live band enable the whole ensemble to give off a more energetic and interactive show, injecting sharpness and passion in to each track they play.
The set is a career-spanning journey, plucking the best tracks out of an already stellar bunch from The Japanese House’s discography, aptly discarding those that simply wouldn’t hold up in this new whirlwind stage persona that Bain has adopted. It’s a wise move: the streamlined set provides more opportunities to actually move around and engage.
‘Face like Thunder’ opens the show up, a bright 80s-esque synth-pop banger taken from her 2016 EP. Starting the night off with a more uptempo song sees Bain now at ease, waving her hair about like a true rockstar. Old favourites like ‘Cool Blue’ and ‘Still’ are polished and perfected for live performances, sounding grungier than their recordings. ‘Saw You in a Dream’ gets the acoustic treatment for the first chorus before the drums blast the track back in to its full glory. ‘Swim Against the Tide’ sounds crisper, with the intricate guitar plucking sounding sharper and more defined.
“Do you guys want to hear a new song?” Bain asks halfway through the night, a wry grin etched on to her face. The audience cheer back, as the band launch in to ‘You Seemed So Happy’, a track with a heavier weight to it than anything The Japanese House have previously produced. Later, another new song ‘Maybe You’re The Reason’ further showcases the musical growth and experimentation that has been going on behind the scenes. Both songs are infectiously catchy, and demonstrated a departure from the fuzzy ambient percussion to more a nuanced pop-rock sound. The night was brought to a triumphant finale with the tender anthem ‘Clean’, in one of the sharpest live renditions of the track that I have ever witnessed.
The whole night stood as a true testament to incredible level of artistic and personal growth that Bain has undergone in the last three or so years. Seemingly embracing herself with confidence, but still retaining the soft, intimate qualities that fans adore her for puts Amber Bain in good stead for the next step in her career. The Japanese House can only go from strength to strength.