Album Review: Swimming Against the Tide EP

Photo Credit: The Japanese House

November 11 saw the launch of the new EP by the up-and-coming British Singer The Japanese House. I must admit that I had never heard of the act beforehand, but going into my review I soon learned the alternative Amber Brian, better known as Japanese House, has a cult following and they eagerly awaited the launch of her new EP.


Swimming Against the Tide:

The title track of the EP really is the best way to highlight Japanese House’s style. She offers an experimental pop and indie hybrid that makes for some really smooth listening. The track has a slow pace that is a staple of the EP which at times leads to the songs sounding very similar. Despite the slower pace, the song has a lot of life and energy which is brought about by the amazing vocals of Amber Brian and her fantastic use of glitch synth. For those who do not know what glitch synth is, imagine a video game soundtrack from the 1990s and you are pretty much there. Overall it’s a rather calm and relaxing song that I could see myself drinking to while I sunbathe on holiday in the Mediterranean.


Face Like Thunder:

Face Like Thunder is your token break up song which is something I find to be overused in the music world, but it’s not all doom and gloom for this second track.

Once again I found myself pleasantly surprised by Japanese House’s synth work. I am often not a fan and feel it is a technique that is hard to nail down but this song does it brilliantly. The synth is blended sublimely with the guitar riffs to create a song that still holds the relaxing feeling that Swimming Against the Tide has to offer, yet it’s able to have a real buzz to it despite the song having such a sad topic.  The guitar and synth hybrid reminded me of Pendulum and the song they are known for but just done at a much more relaxed pace and with smooth vocals. The hybrid nature of the track really leaves me in a good mood and makes Face Like Thunder my second favourite song on the EP.


Good Side In:

Now for my favourite song on the EP. Good Side In has a notable crescendo. While the song begins with an acoustic solo, it gradually builds up with synth layers to climax about two minutes in with an amazing electric guitar number. Any listener will be left feeling super pumped up by the end of this track giving it that work-out single vibe. Good Side In is by far the most lively song on the EP yet it’s still able to capture Japanese House’s experimental style perfectly. The use of auto-tune and pitch bending is very prominent yet this is a rare case in which I feel it adds to the song and helps thrust it into the spotlight.



Lastly we have Leon. A song that is packed to the rafters with Native American flair! At the start, the track appears to follow the same style as the first half of the EP – being very synth heavy and calming, but around a minute in these tribal drums come in alongside American panpipes. The use of these unique instruments gives Leon a whole identity of its own and really showcases the diversity music can bring. While listening to the pipes I got vivid images of a bear catching fish by a river in the Rockies while a tribe of Native Americans watch in awe.

My last point is a real testament to The Japanese House as rarely before have I found an album or EP that can paint such a vivid picture in a person’s mind. Imagery is of course subjective but I felt I had to conclude my review on how well the songs are able to paint an image and turn the music into art, and art has masterpieces and this EP truly is one.


By Innes Enslin


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