Before completing his final high school exams, Japanese Wallpaper has decided to gift us with a final headline tour and a self-titled debut EP. This fully-fledged sound-sculptor has really produced a layered and glassy piece of art. Sometimes it sounds like a hybrid dance between Active Child and Oliver Tank; at other points it has the experimental deformities of Sufjan Steven’s Age of Adz; and still at others it freezes as Bon Iver-like falsettos swell upward. It is all very understated and careful, and therefore sneaks subtle and soft into your ears. It’s certainly an experience.
The album features many collaborations with the likes of Jesse Davidson, Pepa Knight, Wafia and Airling. Gab Strum is excellent at carving sonic space for the idiosyncrasies of his vocalists. When needed he will shrink the voice miniature, or at other times transform it into a heavy hymnal drone. Due to this, the EP’s sonic world never feels uninviting nor imposes itself as unpurposed noise.
It’s first song, Between Friends, is this well-pruned soundscape, which blossoms with little bursts of electronic colour as Davidson tells a friend to “stop trying to be my lover, lover.”
Waves starts with chirping birds and then introduces what sounds like bamboo bristles being brushed against stone. Knight’s voice echoes, and covers the whole song in beautiful metallic howls. Breathe in holds your hand welcomingly as an accordion voice, vibrant synths and wooden clicks climb into a unified outpouring of feeling. I could wax endlessly about all the sublime particulars of each song. So just do yourself a favour and listen to it.
Perhaps, the most important aspect to recognise is Strum’s musical maturity despite (or maybe because of) his age. It is great thing to hear a teenager weave together ethereal streams of sound with the wise-touch of an aged tapestry maker. It is an even greater thing that he is respected and admired as the artist that he is.
I think the times has come; we (anyone in their early twenties and higher) must hand the world over to these young prodigies and become pensioners. I am okay with that because I will have Japanese Wallpaper’s sublime tunes lulling me to sleep as I repose on my rocking chair.
Japanese Wallpaper’s debut EP is out now, head here for details of his upcoming tour.