Music News

Various Artists

The second in Sonic360's globe-spanning, electronic-loving Beatwave series, Japan differs from its predecessor in its wildly diverse influences. While the artists collected on Argentina swayed deeply to their country's traditional tango rhythms and showed a devotion to somber synth-pop, Japan hopscotches with the same kind of dizzying overstimulation that's on display throughout Tokyo's hypertrendy Shibuya district. No reedy koto and slow-burning butoh throwbacks here; rather, these ten tracks giggle along over fudgy bass lines, ice-cold breakbeats, left-field samples (accordion, treated vocals, lots of cosmic atmospherics), and some genuinely fascinating songwriting. 7 O'Clock Shadow spools out the ethereal "Microdriver," space breaks that could sit nicely in the Ninja Tune catalog, while J-Pop trio Pyokn's "Usuzumi-Iron-Zensen" bridges twee electro and hip-hop with jazzy songbird vocals. Delivering Japan's most organic, immediately accessible tracks under the Tremorela moniker, auteur/producer Tomonao Tanaka shuffles vintage vocals and a ridiculously funky harpsichord vamp into the infectious, whistle-driven "Sound Goes On" and later splashes into the schizoid, Daft Punk-ish "Go Out in the Rain." With Japan's entire electronic output under consideration, it seems odd that Beatwave should select two tracks by the same artist, but both are inevitably worthy. Like the many highlights on this giddy, intriguing comp, Tremorela filters the vast palette of pop music into glistening ear candy that's as smart as it is sweet.
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Jonathan Zwickel