Top 20 Releases of 2014: No.7 – Lihappiness – 2nd Pattern

Part of the work of this blog and my writing about Japanese music in general involves mapping out the network of scenes and sub-scenes, navigating the internal politics and threads of musical and cultural influence, and even when I then dismiss or disregard them, understanding the vagaries and shifting trends of musical fashion – all in the service of putting the music I cover into some sort of context. These scenes can be hotbeds of cool ideas, and getting to grips with them can open up doors into whole fresh pools of talented artists and new sounds; however, there are rarely more than a handful of genuinely interesting people at work in any scene, and the deeper you dig, the more you tend to find the same ideas played out to diminishing returns.

It’s always a delight then when someone like bedroom producer Lihappiness, with apparently no regard to where it fits in, can up with something like this relentless assault of lo-fi techno, drawing heavily from Japanese new wave acts like P-Model and the pioneering electronic pop of Kraftwerk, and even the postpunk-influenced epic rock of early Simple Minds and moulding them together in such a distinctive way. This is the kind of music you play to other people in the music scene and they sort of get that it’s good, but they’re also wary of it. It doesn’t fit the template, and the way it fearlessly and obliviously blows through any accepted contemporary notions of cool makes it a difficult sell.

After the instrumental intro, A.K.A. Virtue sets the tone with its flurry of beats, atonal non-singing, growling bass and laser zapping breakdown, and this remains a thread that the album returns to climactically later on in Tetto. Meanwhile Fun Fun Fun is an 80s pop song gone horribly wrong, and the first in a trio of tracks that all showcase a pop sensibility with varying degrees of wonkiness. The closing B.P. 2 is a murky house track with its ambient, ethereal synth lines underscored with a sort of babbling robotic evil in the vocals, all driven forward by the insistent beat and wobbling bass throb. 2nd Pattern is an album that tries to do so many things, and if successful means creating a completely unique character of its own from them, then it is a resounding success.

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