Amber Bain’s previous two EPs as The Japanese House – last year’s Pools to Bathe In and Clean – have been somewhat low-key affairs. The signs of her ability to enter a more immediate, purer pop realm have always been there, but it’s been more about ambience than anything up to this point. Swim Against the Tide sees the two combine to mesmerising effect. Now she’s truly arrived.
The format is, as it’s always been, four tracks totalling around the 15-minute mark – but it’s soon apparent that this latest batch is a notable step up. At once heart-breaking and mighty, the almost addictive lead single ‘Face Like Thunder’ is the standout and comfortably Bain’s best output to date. Closer ‘Leon’, meanwhile, proves that she’s perfected those more entrancing, atmospheric moments – now injecting the pensiveness with that transformative pop quality. Even at its most fragile on its title track, Swim Against the Tide sees Bain’s already distinctive, captivating electronica making an even more indelible mark.
Where Bain’s use of effects has felt experimental in the past – at times verging on overdone – here it feels altogether more focused. Subsequently, there’s a new clarity to everything, and Swim Against the Tide offers up the most vivid picture yet of just what The Japanese house is. What it is, is simply beautiful.