Through the Deep
Through the Deep is available at:
April 29th 2016
The E.P., Through the Deep, is available from June 3rd:
Lost in the Manor
Through the Deep
Night Time (Petite Noir Remix)
Divers; Through the Deep; Anchorless Ship
Through the Deep
THIS review marks a bit of a milestone for me…
as this is my first Japan-based review. Such a large and populous nation: I am shocked this is my first Japanese band. I know the country has such a rich and busy music culture: rarely, do we get to see too many Japanese acts make their way to our shores. Before getting to my featured act: it is worth looking at the music coming out of Japan; the genre, Dream-Pop- focusing on what the rest of this year holds. Whether you have heard of Dir En Grey and The 220.127.116.11.’s: Maximum the Hormone or The Pillows- Japan has created some seriously great acts. Arashi and An Café can be added to this- rather long- list. Many of- when thinking about Japanese music- get two ideas in our head. We think of Heavy-Metal and Rock: heavy and hard bands that leave little to the imagination. A lot of people- rightly, to a degree- think of Japan as quirky, strange and bizarre- there are many Japanese musicians whose music reflects that stereotype. While Japan does things differently- and has a unique way of life- that is not to say we should assume stereotypes and clichés. In the same way Britain is not a stiff-upper-lipped, repressed nation of red phone boxes, posh-speaking toffs and chimney-sweeping East Londoners: Japan is not a country filled with neon-lit signs and head-melting oddness- there is subtlety, beauty and grace to be discovered. If we label a nation- thinking we have their number- then it closes the imagination and limits our expectations. In the same way, U.S. perceptions of Britain is way off the mark- very few Americans bother to visit us- we are just as naïve about Japan. While I have listed some awesome acts- that play things with grit and anger- the likes of Jinn, Luna Sea and Nightmare (a trio of Rock acts) are not the ‘norm.’ Japanese Pop music- or ‘J-Pop’ as it’s known- is its own culture. Country Girls and Buono!; Juice=Juice and Dream- just a few names (among dozens) that have made Japanese Pop music synonymous with invention, quality, and originality. I am a big fan of Perfume’s blend of Bubblegum-Pop and Synthpop: I love their bright fashions and instantaneous songs. In that spirit: Morning Museume are one of the freshest- and most distinct- girl groups in Japan.
It is great discovering The fin. They are a band you know will transcend to the big leagues and travel the globe. Before I carry on, let me introduce them to you:
“Hailing from the vibrant Japanese port city of Kobe, The fin. are a reputed and singular attraction in their homeland due to their stylish Europhile blend of synth-pop, chillwave and dream-pop, complete with English lyrics addressing universal themes of everyday uncertainties. Often referenced alongside the likes of Beach House, Phoenix, Metronomy and M83, the quartet have, since forming in 2012, performed before thousands of rapturous fans at major Japanese festivals including Fuji Rock, Rising Sun and Viva La Rock. Not content with such acclaim in one country alone, Yuto Uchino (vocals and synths), Ryosuke Odagaki (guitar), Takayasu Taguchi (bass) and Kaoru Nakazawa (drums) set their sights worldwide and in 2015 embarked on a major tour of the US, which included a performance at SXSW, before making their first forays into Britain with a handful of dazzling shows in support of their debut UK EP, ‘Night Time’. Their much-anticipated return to these shores this spring comes in the wake of a second British release and a growing recognition that there’s an act of rare, sophisticated beauty creating a big noise in the East. It’s time to turn your gaze to The fin.
There’s a theme running through the beauteous new EP by The fin. that permeates more than just the song titles. Oceanic imagery features heavily in Yuto Uchino’s lyrics, as references to ship, shore and submersion loom large. The singer articulates these tales of impermanence and transition to a shimmering, sophisticated indie art-pop backing that will be familiar to fin. fans, even though there’s a greater electronic influence to this EP, as synths carry more of the weight, melodically and rhythmically.
Opener ‘White Breath’ builds on its vehement piano/vocal intro to envelop a cropped hypnotic groove with springy keyboard stabs, dubby fx and, of course, Uchino’s soaring harmonies. “I saw you jumped into the sea/What could you see from there?” the singer then questions to the symphonic arpeggios of ‘Divers’, set to a characteristically minimalist beat and crunchy bassline that segues into a second act of controlled yet quietly euphoric trance-pop.
The title track, ‘Through The Deep’ opens with a swell of surf guitar and thump of percussive kick drum that evolves into a stylish, deceptively complex composition that hums with sonic exploration and an ambient energy that will only tease the listener with its brevity. Even shorter is the 67 seconds of ‘Heat’, which finds The fin. at their most stripped down, just a wash of sine-waves, a sparkling melodic refrain and Yuto’s distinctive tones proclaiming the sudden onset of intensity. Finally, ‘Anchorless Ship’ is a modest masterwork of smooth, uncluttered funk built on a sustained pulse resembling the sonar ping of a submarine’s radar. A wash of synth then announces a change of course towards the tune’s expansive, ecstatic coda, as Yuto sings about deeper immersion in dreams.
The compelling video to ‘Through The Deep’ depicts a colourful traveller in a post-apocalyptic landscape, who happens upon a decrepit fairground and its ageing inhabitant. It’s a video full of grace, space and mystique, and as such is the perfect accompaniment to the ethereal wonder of The fin.’s new EP”.
The band is in the U.K. at the moment. Tonight, they are in Brighton: taking part in The Great Escape 2016. They take on Tooting Tram and Social on 26th– visiting Hull in the meantime. After that, the band visits Portsmouth: they head back to Japan in June. The Kobe-born band mixes English lyrics with a Japanese sensibility: ensuringng they translate across the globe and have a wide fan-base. There are Japanese acts that sing in Japanese: there is that danger they will not be fully appreciated by the English-speaking world. The fin. have no such issues: their fan numbers are rising and their stock is rising. Going against expectations and predictions: Yuto Uchino, Ryosuke Odagaki; Takayasu Taguchi and Kaoru Nakazawa mix J-Pop with something more European (U.S. flavours in there). We in the U.K. have our share of Dream-Pop artists: it is a delight to see a Japanese act come through with similar sensibilities and ideas. That is not to say The fin. are westernised and betray their roots- Japan has a growing number of Dream-Pop acts. Sugarplant and Lemon’s Chair are a couple of acts that you should seek: showing just what Japanese musicians can do. The fin. are able to unveil Through the Deep (released on June 3rd) and its title track is seducing a lot of people. I have been lucky to receive the E.P. – one of the first to hear it in full- and can pay testament to the stun and beauty throughout.
Through the Deep’s title track is available on YouTube– complete with a gorgeous and unique video- and has gained a lot of praise. Whether you see The fin. as dreamy and surreal; hazy and pretty- few people will come to the same conclusion. Such is the strength of their music: so many different emotions and adjectives reveal themselves. Through the Deep opens with a shimmering and endeavouring sound. The guitar shivers and vibrates- oceanic and land-straddling- whilst a heartbeat-like percussion drips with emotion. After seeing the song’s title- and hearing the initial notes- I get impressions of self-actualisation and discovery: a band that is looking for answers and looking to brighter skies. The song’s composition does nothing to dispel that assumption. Yuto Uchino wanted The fin. to be seen as borderless and without boundaries- not rigidly defined and clear-cut. Through the Deep sees a haphazard wandered stumble upon a (abandoned and desolate) fairground (the video).
That light-and-shade contrast can be found in the first phases. Whilst the song’s video sees a wide-eyed girl run to the fair: the song’s lyrics look at “emptiness” and sentimentality. The fin. are masterful when it comes to emotional outpouring and meaning. They are revelatory and open yet always keep the full truth inside. Through the Deep could be seen in a number of different ways. Perhaps it is a tale of finding love and direction in life. You can see it as a general assessment of solitude and pain- each listener will have their own views. One thing that cannot be disputed is the unadulterated beauty and emotion that explodes from the speakers. Even when insular and self-examining: The fin. are a stunning and constantly engaging and mesmeric. You get vibes of The xx- whatever happened to them?!- and something cinematic and twilight. We hear of ships “with no destination” that are “drifting on the waves”- themes that run through the E.P. as a whole. I was thinking about a break-up and distance in a relationship. Maybe the duo- if it is taken from personal memories- are going through the motions and seem rather fragmented. There is that desire to rekindle an old spark or find common ground- knowing that things will never be as they were. Such evocative music calls for deep analysis and speculation- well, from my standpoint it does- and you cannot help but imagine and conspire. Before the half-way mark; the vocals become more unified- colour and layers come together- as the beat (that heartbeat pound) become more defined and clear. Elongated, stridulated electronics fuse with ocean-side waves- the resultant cocktail is one that cannot be beaten. Few bands are as astonishing and talented as The fin. There are a lot of Dream-Pop examples on the market: few have the originality and authority of Kobe’s masters.
When The fin. released their debut E.P. Glowing On the Red Shore– around the same time as their L.P.- they were fighting against being on the outside. Unconventional and brave: the Japanese band have never had the full backing of the media and movers-and-shakers. Through the Deep’s self-titled anthem sees them in uncompromising and dazzling mood. You will be hard-pressed to discover a song as gorgeous and fascinating. The band has grown in popularity in Japan- although they weren’t a couple of years back- but write music that has international appeal. They do not stick to J-Pop moulds and limitations: their music breaks beyond Japan and is intended for the wider world. Having traveled the globe- across the U.S. and Europe- The fin. have picked up a lot of inspiration and influence on the road. Through the Deep is an intense and fleshed-out diamond that shines with determination. Uchino demonstrates what an extraordinary visionary he is- the rest of the band take a back seat when it comes to songwriter- and what a talent he possesses. Awash with reverb and soulful vocals: they evoke so much emotion with so few instruments. The keyboard and percussion are matched with subtle guitar strings- a veritable painting unfolds before your ears. Through the Deep is a song that could mean everything and nothing: a look at love, life and death; each person will take something new and special (from the song). By the end notes, you sit back and struggle to capture everything- you need to come back to get a full reign on the song. Although the quartet have not fully captured the Japanese mindset- there is a need (in Japan) to quickly release songs; lest you leave things too long- they are a huge hit overseas. When they return home- and finish touring- they hit the studio for album number two. It will be exciting to see how far the guys can go. They have such a bond and talent on-board: few other acts are as consistent and limitless than them. Through the Deep shows just what a force of nature The fin. is. They have few equals and no limitations: by freeing constraints; they allow their imaginations and thoughts to run free, unhindered.
The fin. released Days With Uncertainty in 2014 and showed how formed and united they were. The 11-track album sported no weak moments and possessed a huge amount of diversity and urgency. Even at their dreamiest and most seductive points: the band was fully capable of stealing the breath; taking you somewhere (almost) spiritual. Forward two years- with a bit of music in the interim- and there is a blend of evolution and consistency. The band has not changed their sound too much- they didn’t need to- but sound more confident and adventurous than before. Sonically, they employ more risks and have expanded their palette- the same goes for the subject matter and themes. The performances are tighter and the vocals contain more emotion, layers and nuance. What we have- with Through the Deep– is an E.P. that will please existing fans- able to recruit plenty of new followers. White Breath is awash with swooning vocals and layers of sound: the track is an instant energy-burst and takes you by surprise. The beauty-assault grabs you by the scruff and demands your attention. One of the band’s only- forgivable and understandable- weaknesses is the accessibility of the vocals. Being Japanese: their English vocals can suffer some indecipherability and clarity loss. That is a minor quibble inside music that is more about mood and feel- the concision and lyrics are almost second-nature. You get embers and waves of ‘60s sunshine: Psychedelia and melancholy entwine in a rapturous and cohabitate bond that sparks with life and lust. The casual listener will be enthralled by the goosebumps-inducing vocals and dreaminess: those more serious will appreciate the subtle composition: one that adds extra emotion and grandeur to the track. The guitars flick with subtlety: the electronics buzz and burble- the percussion drives things; the bass packs plenty of groove and kick. That blend of expression, rhythm and purity combines in a stunning opening track.
Divers begins with a more gradual and subtle pace. The electronics start to rise: leading to a very ‘Japanese’ sound. When hearing the cascading electronics: your mind is transported across the oceans to the city of Kobe (Japan’s sixth-largest). That contrast of mountains and the metropolis come together: the rush and crowds; the space and fresh air of the open. Listening to the- entrancing and elliptical- electronics and you swim in a very pleasing and warm sea. The percussion claps and slaps: the waterfall-sounding ‘tronics flow and smile. The band pulls all their key strengths together. The harmonious vocals- the blend of male and female tones is a pleasing contrast; a consistent high- and twanging bass ensure Divers drives and swoons- a verbal embodiment of the song’s ideals and values. Whilst lyrics look at ocean depths and discovery: the band take your mind with the song; allow the listener to become ensconced in its tenderness. The fin. display their incredible musicianship throughout the song. The bass features prominently- a pounding and bouncing centrifuge- while those electronics continue to evoke chills and sunshine. Mixing ‘60s-Pop with something modern and city-bound: one of the highlights from Through the Deep.
Heat sweeps into life with an intent and direct vocal. The band layer the voices to create something heavenly and brief- the song is the shortest on the E.P. (1:07). Showing how economical the band is- they do not allow any track to outstay its welcome- you get a song that is by-no-means a filler- it is one of the most beautiful pieces on the E.P. Mysterious and wise- the lyrics could be taken literally; perhaps attest a romance- the listener will have their own take on the song. Sometimes the band’s vocals get buried underneath the compositions- that clarity issue- but, once more, there is more emphasis on the complete sound. Judging it on pure motives and merits: Heat showcases how effective the four-piece is. Few groups are able to write a 77-second song that puts so much emotion and evocation together.
Anchorless Ship is (perhaps the E.P.’s) most direct and hard-hitting song. The light-baring and sunny vibes are there: everything is tighter, louder and firmer. The electronics plink and flash- rather than stretching and flowing- and there is an underlying fear and uncertainty. The song’s title suggests a rudderless and lost soul: someone floating in the ocean without gravity and destination. For that reason: the vocals are more one-dimensional and distilled. It would be disappointing to discover an E.P. where every song sounded the same: each track has its own soul and way of working. Anchorless Ship is the most unique and distinguished song from Through the Deep. The band’s most ‘serious’ revelation: there is still playfulness and comfort to be found. That combination of electronics-and-percussion (with some mean and cool bass) sticks in the head. A regimental march that builds momentum as time elapses: a powerful swan-song that will want you desiring more (such is the definition of a truly great E.P.). Anchorless Ship moves through different stages and movements. After the tense and introspective opening: a building- delirious and cinematic- middle unfurls its wings. At first, the electronics hop and jump- an innocence and sense of playfulness- before it fizzes and bursts into life. The band raise the stakes and inject everything they have into the song. The bass swaggers and dances: the vocals become more defined and deep- a beautiful blend of ‘80s Synth.-Pop and modern—day J-Pop.
A few weeks ago: I did not know who The fin. were. It has been wonderful unravelling and inspecting a stunning and dream-like band. The fact they hail from Japan makes it much richer and interesting. I love getting stuck into London music and the sounds of the U.K. We should all support our home-grown artists and what is happening on our doorsteps- not forgetting to promulgate the best international sounds. It has been so long since I have been in Asian waters: the last review (in this continent) was when I assessed Indian artist, Antriksh Bali. It is not often I get to go beyond Europe and North America- Australia is a rare treat- and witness a great act that is producing stunning music. The world of music has become poorer over this year. With the loss of so many great artists- from David Bowie and Prince- we look to the new generation for inspiration and guidance. Whilst we might never witness those kind of titans emerge: that is not to say music, in general, cannot inspire and amaze.
As listeners/purveyors: we are too defined and restrained with regards musical experimentation (besides those who really have a burning passion). I would never have thought to check-out a Japanese Dream-Pop band- luckily I am in a position where these kind of musicians come to my attention. From this serendipitous discovery: I have been compelled to investigate Japanese music and the acts coming through. The fin. have set tongues wagging with the track, Through the Deep. The same-named E.P. will get the senses tingling and buzzing. A five-track (plus a remix) shows what consistency and talent is in The fin. camp. The bond- between the players and instruments- results in some of the most scenic and soul-baring music you can imagine. I will keep an eye on the Kobe-based band and what we can expect. I have not been able to see them this time- they head back to Japan in the coming weeks- but I will check them out when they return to these isles. The future is looking very bright for them. They could have a residency in the U.Ss or Australia- two nations that embrace the kind of music they play- and the U.K. has been gobbling them up like sweets. If you are unfamiliar with the quartet- and I’m guessing you will be- then check out their single, Through the Deep. When their E.P. arrives (in a few days) grab it and let its magic entrance you. That is one of the beauties of the music industry: there is so many variation and unexpectedness out there. With Japan’s The fin…
THEY epitomise that statement… and some!
Follow The fin.