Hope SXSW has insurance, because The Japanese House conjured a storm

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I’ll tell you what. For only three people, The Japanese House sounds like an entire world.

The British act, fronted by singer-guitarist Amber Bain, blasted a powerful, bracing wind into the South by Southwest Radio Day Stage on Wednesday, perfect for the spring weather currently treating Austin. (Incidentally, don’t get used to that, visitors.) 

Nature and the elements took root through the sumptuous electropop outfit’s entire set, whether it was soft gazes in clean light mentioned on the rainforesty “Clean” or the “Face Like Thunder” that preoccupies Bain so much in the song of same name. For every tune about a stormy mug, a bass like thunder was felt. The Japanese House shook the stage with deep, overwhelming synth tones, countered by snippy cymbals. Babbling brook guitar lines refreshed the verses in “Cool Blue,” which struck somewhere between First Aid Kit and The 1975 by way of comparisons.

When thinking of reference points for Bain’s songs, though, the only name that popped in my head over and over was Imogen Heap (of “Garden State,” “The O.C.” and Jason Derulo sample fame). This wasn’t a thought that hadn’t occurred after already logging plenty of Spotify time with the Japanese House. Bain’s magnified and distorted voice instantly and constantly recalled Heap’s own loop-and-reverb style, and the use of vocal tracks as instrumentation lent to the feeling of mass on stage.

Nothing about the Japanese House was heavy, though. The were like the ocean: It’s clear, it’s purifying and it seems like it’s everywhere.


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