Yokan System- Whispering (Ample Play)

Yokan System- Whispering (Ample Play)

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Its admirable that Tokyo duo Yokan System (Mai Yano and Tsukasa Kameya) have stuck to their guns by resisting the temptation to write songs on their debut album Whispering’ in English when attempting to increase their marketability. When fellow Oriental acts Nova Heart and Rainbow Chan have opted against that stubborness. In an interview with FAULT blog,  they said they “don’t have any shortcuts, just aiming toward(s) a goal”. It’s a proud yet risky move but they might have rely on skilled song interpreters and lyric-listing or even English-language covers of their tracks to get their messages across worldwide.

If that happens, listeners can enjoy Japanese-language songs such as ‘Melt Away’ and ‘Klee’, which contain engaging creepy visions that elaborate on the idea of premonition – “Yokan” from their band name is Japanese for “gut-feeling” and could possibly entice audiences to take up the language. ‘Melt Away’ suggests an out of body experience following an accident, (loosely translated as) “now I feel that this is a dream, I’m happy/ I died in front of me.” As if the narrator fails to recognize that’s she’s a ghost. ‘Klee’ is also strange and ominous: “I just stop bleeding/I’m nearly there, I’m very close.” Furthermore, ‘Sympathy Doll’ is demanding and unapologetic – “Watashi wo mite!” (“Look at Me”). It notably attempts to muster a hook with non lexical vocables that transcend language barriers. Mai Yano may have a more cuddly tone to her voice but there’s a dark mind still erupting within. English-language cameo Ipanema paints the surreal portrait of a time-travelling monster, yet it’s observations are rather -repetitive; a habit on this short-track release.

There’s also a problem for the circa 120 million Japanese speakers. Although it can’t be called a “shoegaze album”, the way that Mai Yano’s voice is ordered behind the thick layers of bubbling effervescence is what makes them unintelligible at times. The narrow and non-chalant tone of Lyubov Soloveva (pinkshinyultrablast) also add to that shoegaze classification. This is despite the fact Yano used to spirtually scream instead like Natasha Khan’s Sexwitch in her previous bands. The consequence is that all listeners, disregarding their linguistic ability will concentrate on the album’s production instead.

Using a laptop and analogue synths, whilst initially conceived on software application Garage Band via iPhone, it has a contemporary bedroom-darkwave appeal about it; electronic rock style and distortions of synthpunk Crystal Castles without the possessed yells and the trapped oxygen mood and modern playfullness of Grimes‘ Geidi Primes. Yet there’s also the bounciness of Erasure and cheerful kira-kira of Pizzicato Five captured in their simplistic lo-fi sound for good measure.

Despite being fresh, Yokan System could be seen as a reincarnation for Mai Yano and Tsukasa Kameya, as they previously performed together in gyspy-psych band Praha Depart. They travelled all around Europe, building fanbases specifically in The Netherlands and Spain (11 gigs), whilst all the while boldly performing in Japanese. Maybe a positive prophecy is actually in store for them once again. Ganbatte Yokan System!


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.