Lots of great Japanese music comes out every week, but keeping track of it all is a tough task. The folks at OTAQUEST want to help. In this series, we’ll cover new Japanese music highlights from various areas of the industry over the past seven days worth your time. This week: rappers who love to keep listeners on their toes, bands that show taking time can result in frantic work, and a producer benefitting from space.
SUSHIBOYS — Bones
Leave it to those SUSHIBOYS to catch you off guard with something right out of left field. New album Bones opens with a keyboard melody built for retrowave rather than a contemporary rap, but after a little bit of this glistening throwback, the ‘boys themselves barge in with these nervy verses that give the titular number a weird energy that only gets more oddball as the song bops along. Throwing musical wrenches into Japanese rap without bringing everything into total chaos is what they do well, though, and Bones features highlights including the Jersey Club-smeared pogo of “Drug” and the Auto-tune slow burn of “Food Additives.” While they also make room for more traditional hip-hop cuts like “Band-Aid” (pleasant, but never totally trust a song that just lists the days of the week), stick around for oddball house-rap anthems like “App Store,” which celebrates…just that. Not something you expect from most rap groups, but SUSHIBOYS are anything but that. Listen above.
KANDYTOWN — ADVISORY
For those hesitant to embrace goofball energy in their rap and would rather just see a big group of guys get together to flex, hip-hop collective KANDYTOWN’s ADVISORY is perfect for you. The biggie-sized group features over a dozen members, and this variety allows for all kinds of combinations over the course of this album, offering a chance for everyone in their orbit to show what they are made of while also playing off of one another. They prefer beats built around dusty samples or more minimal creepers leaving space for their rhymes to stick out — though check the alien trophouse stutter of “Slide,” the album’s most intriguing inclusion — because KANDYTOWN celebrates the genre’s vocal elements, and they try to avoid letting anything disrupt that. Listen above.
Akai Ko-en — Kienai
Two years isn’t much time in the grand scheme of things. Yet in the lightspeed landscape of music in the 2010s, being mostly quiets for about 24 months nearly resembles going off the grid completely. Rock quartet Akai Ko-en kept up a steady stream of releases in the early half of the decade, charming listeners and landing on festival bills with a twisty-turny approach to the style. Recently though, they’ve been pretty quiet, with no new material since 2017. No longer true, though! Their new EP arrived this week and features returns to the guitar-based creations along with two dips into new territory for them, with the noisy chug-a-lug of “HEISEI” and the robo-stutter of “Yo-Ho,” a full on embrace of electronic. Pretty strong argument in favor of taking some time to put music together. Listen above.
Qrion — Waves EP
Few electronic artists wring emotional tension out of space like Qrion. Originally from Hokkaido but now based in the States (but still going into this feature, because this one’s a gem), she has long used silence and extra space as a way to up the stakes of her songs. The Waves EP takes on elements of house music, but still finds Qrion letting songs naturally emerge from places with plenty of room to move around. The titular cut, in particular, builds up slowly, with each new addition adding new dimensions to the swaying beat at its center. Listen above.