What do you do when your identity as a musician gets all scrambled up. For more than a decade, Sachiko Aoyama was the lead vocalist and keyboardist in the band Negoto, a synth-pop outfit achieving a fair amount of success but also never scoring that one hit capable of pushing them up to the next level. Still, they achieved a lot and created a lot of good J-Rock in that time, and when they disbanded in 2019, it served as a big shift for the four members of the group. This had been their existence for a substantial period of time, and then it was over.
Aoyama’s first move post-Negoto is to go solo, and she’s kicked her new artistic career off with “Vanilla,” a number building on the sound Negoto worked with over their career. It comes bundled with a video featuring 8-bit graphics and surreal imagery. Watch below.
If you clicked that big arrow above, you probably noticed that “8-bit graphics” kind of undersells the video for “Vanilla.” The design actually results in something trying to imitate real life while also using its animated nature to work in plenty of fantastical images (big cats, big fish, etc.). It’s one of the more visually impressive clips you’ll see out of Japan this year, and it matches up well with the out-of-mind vibe “Vanilla” the song conjures up.
That’s because Aoyama sticks closely to the Negoto formula on the song, leaning towards up-tempo rock but dolloping in plenty of electronic elements that help add tension to the song. The percussion, more than than any other element, contributes to this feel, adding the most unsettling moments here and giving it a dream-like quality where anything — even a beat more common in trap than from someone courting Rock In Japan audiences — can happen.