By Xin-Rui Lee, Staff Writer
Hello dear reader, and welcome to the all-new column Notes From Nihon. Each week, I will be picking one fabulous artist from the land of the rising sun and giving you the low down on why you ought to be listening to them (or more like presenting to you their music which will then speak for itself). Did you know that Japan has the second largest music market behind the United States? And yet, what do we know of it? For most of us, hardly a thing, and J-pop is no defense. Japan is so steeped in beautiful customs and traditions and yet I’ve come to observe (this observation confirmed by my speaking freely sensei) that the Japanese romanticize and fetishize Western culture just as much as we do theirs, thus birthing a unique sound that grapples with eastern roots and heavy western influences. I am not Japanese and do not (yet) speak it fluently, so let’s start together at square one.
Our inaugural artist is singer/composer Noah, hailing from Aichi. Her ambient electronica pop has landed her on the radars of such notable organizations like The Guardian and BBC Music. I chanced upon her while exploring the website of her record label flau. My limited language capacity confining me to websites that were in English. Here we discover that her music was heavily inspired by the picturesque snowy serenity of her childhood, as well as the odd mishmash of genres she was exposed to growing up. This included choir harmony from churches, the soundtrack to French animation films, 90’s trip-hop, and R&B.
Noah released her debut album “Sivutie” (translating to “side road” in Finnish) last year, veering ever so slightly from what those who were excited by her earlier mixtapes were anticipating. “Sivutie” sees Noah pairing her sweet wispy vocals with soft beats and ethereal piano tones, delivering her lush though soft-spoken statement. Close your eyes and the album conjures images of vast fields blanketed in snow, listen to it on a rainy day and suddenly everything is infinitely more romantic. Noah conceived “Sivutie” as giving the listener a glimpse into a “girl’s mysterious world in a night dream,” so give it a go and see where it takes you. As a sampling of her collection of sounds, one must give a listen to songs from her various mixtapes in addition to her album. They each hold a distinct quality and you might prefer one to the other. I’m personally inclined towards “Mood,” which highlights Noah’s simplistic approach to R&B, and “Two” which features artist/rapper Siddiq from Houston and is appropriately described on their website as “seeming suburban music”.
P.S. Dig around flau’s website, there are a few other interesting Japanese artists there!
Her website: http://noahdromme.com/
Listen to Mood here: https://soundcloud.com/flaurecords/sets/noah-mood
Listen to/Buy Sivutie here: https://flau.bandcamp.com/album/sivutie