By Jack Holmes
Swim Against the Tide is the third and final EP in a series created by Japanese House. Following the themes of the first two instalments, Clean and Pools to Bathe In, Swim Against the Tide’ is a mix of 1975 esque vocals and something much more electronic at times, eerily sombre. It’s an odd mix, and while not always pulling it off perfectly, for the most part, The Japanese House deliver another instalment in a line of EP’s that have pioneered a corner of the indie electronic genre few others have dared to tread.
Japanese House is the brainchild of a particularly talented East Londoner. When questioned about the name they replied “I was thinking about what I wanted to call myself as I didn’t want to put my name out or my gender” and who are we to question that? In fact, we commend the idea that music should speak for itself regardless of the details of the artist.
Swim Against the Tide feels like it was always envisioned as being listened to from start to finish in one sitting, flowing from track to track acting as pieces of a larger picture. It works well, and adds a sense of atmosphere to the EP, moving from “just music” into the territory of “music as art”, impressive when you consider it’s a relatively easy listen in comparison to other artists who’ve been regarded as an artist rather than a musician.
Opening with track Swim Against the Tide, The Japanese House immediately introduce the listener to newly incorporated sounds in addition to their usual electronic, yet another influence into The Japanese House’s mix of styles. Vocals are thoroughly indie pop but the added electronic and synth layers give the whole EP a more unique feel than anything you can expect to hear on prime time Radio1 (or whatever all the normal kids listen to these days).
Face Like Thunder is the clear highlight, ethereal vocals soar over smooth electronic beats and features a catchy indie pop chorus that still manages to incorporate the . It’s much more upbeat than the rest of the EP but never feels out of place and simply comes across as a peak in the energy of the album.
Good Side In’s funky bass lines and clean fine picked guitars contrast from Face Like Thunders solemn eeriness. It’s almost uplifting at times and the chorus is one of the most foot tap inciting moments Swim Against the Tide has to offer.
Leon feels a little lacklustre in the grand scheme of the whole EP. Where Good Side In has its catchy chorus, Face Like Thunder it’s driving melodies and the EP’s title track has the oddities of its oriental sounds, Leon just feels a little empty. If Swim Against the Tide had been a full album this would be been an acceptable wind down track to finish off the journey through the EP, but instead is made to feel a little repetitive with its chorus of “I hadn’t figured out until you were gone, Leon, Leon” lacking the excitement of previous tracks.
Swim Against the Tide is a mix of in your face and passively atmospheric that might put off a lot of their listeners, but it’s an EP that moves cleverly from one tempo to another both within its tracks and through its track to track transitions. There’s something delightfully unique about it, even if that something isn’t going to grab you by the shoulders and shake you, preferring to whisper its intrigue into your ear throughout its playtime. Swim Against the Tide is worth a listen, if you like your atmospheric indie electronica you’re sure to find a niche little gap in the market that The Japanese House have claimed, and if you’re not, well give it a listen anyway and you might be pleasantly surprised.