The Japanese House @ The Caves, Edinburgh, 18 Mar
The brooding power of Amber Bain and The Japanese House proves as impressive in the flesh as it does on record
We're in The Caves, deep in Edinburgh’s Old Town, on an unusually balmy March Monday. Intense blue spotlights cast an eerie glow on the animated faces of the crowd, turning this vaulted space into a watery catacomb. But it's only a little claustrophobic; there's a warmth and camaraderie that makes the audience feel more like a gathering of friends. Rumours start to circulate that Amber Bain (the singer-songwriter/producer behind The Japanese House alias) is somewhere in the crowd, accompanied by a big dog.
Up first is Kamran Khan aka Fake Laugh, who later returns to the stage as bassist for the headline act. Alone with his guitar and drum machine, Khan gives a cohesive and soulful showing, a testament to the potential of DIY musical performance.
When Amber Bain takes the stage as The Japanese House, she beams just as much as the audience. Wasting no time for small talk, the music begins, the sheer power of the sound and the sonic unity of the band unquestionable. We're immediately enchanted, the brooding electronica feeling oddly at home amongst the venue’s gothic masonry.
Although she only emerged in 2015, the 23-year-old Bain has already gained what feels like a cult following. Audience members groan with delight at the opening notes of older tracks such as Leon, Cool Blue and Somebody You Found. However, the effect of newer songs is just as powerful – with debut LP Good at Falling only weeks old, every lyric is already being whispered or shouted back at her.
Momentary uncertainty spreads through the crowd as what sounds like a new track is explored, before it reveals itself to be an alternative introduction to the magnificent and agonising Everybody Hates Me. The track is touching and relatable, capturing the power of intrusive negative thoughts and isolation, and to witness it felt by a room full of people is a moving and intensely human experience.
A rare moment of quiet is found in a stripped back i saw you in a dream. Bain works her way through the melodic track with her smooth vocals, usually so adorned with effect and harmony, finally laid bare. The band stand patiently before rejoining her for the final verse, muted drums punctuating the sighing lyrics, 'I’m starting to believe that when I call your name you just don’t hear.'
The set comes to a surprising climax with album opener went to meet her, Bain flashing in and out of sight amidst the white strobe lights, finally emerging in blue with her hands on her head, smiling with satisfaction as her silky voice fills the room.
It's truly a dizzyingly strong performance by musicians who seem undoubtedly glad to be up there; an evening all about love for the music, for The Japanese House and fans alike.