Ever heard about a new band, but had no idea where to start listening? Breaker Japan’s resident music expert, Luke, emerges from a dark corner of the office to help you out. Every month, he’ll be handing out his thoughts on the most original musical acts in Japan. In a musical landscape usually associated with girl groups and anime robot singers, these are the artists that make the Japanese music scene come to life.
Sometimes it feels wrong to admit that Spotify can replace that music nerd friend that knows about all the latest trending music that you should know if you consider yourself cool. Well, sorry friend and thanks, Spotify, you are officially cooler as you introduced me to D.A.N.
D.A.N have been pursuing a sound tailored to a new generation of eager ears. With the aim to create an everlasting sound free of the constraints of a single musical era, pulling mellow Japanese minimal influences together with that sought-after club sound, resulting in something refreshingly unique and clever.
Formed in 2014, by Daigo Sakuragi (Guitar, Vocals, Synths), Jinya Ichikawa (Bass) and Hikaru Kawakami (Drums), D.A.N have been making movements by quickly stepping up their game and making a splash in the future music scene. In 2015, they had their debut performance at Fuji Rock on the “Rookie-a-go-go” stage, which showcases some of Japan’s freshest talent. Just like indie pop dreamers The fin., who played that stage the previous year, it was the start of an onward journey into the spotlight of something much more exciting.
Thanks, Spotify, you are officially cooler as you introduced me to D.A.N.
The following year in 2016, D.A.N were invited back to Fuji Rock, not as “Rookies” but as groove meisters on the vivacious Red Marquee stage. Their sound must have rang true to the vibes of Fuji Rock as that year as their track “Zidane” was chosen as the backing music for the Fuji Rock 2016 highlights video.
Admittedly, success at one Japanese music festival doesn’t guarantee a future of international exposure, but it also doesn’t go unnoticed. In 2017, they were chosen as the supporting act for James Blake and The xx when they came to perform in Japan. Their ability to carefully construct a groove powered with Hikaru’s laid back drumming and snappy basslines from Jinya, layered with a thin wafer of ambient synthesized sounds and light guitar parts creates cerebral music that fits perfect alongside Blake’s compositions.
Driven by the want to share the amalgamation of chillout alt-pop and dance floor ready sounds, sometimes reminiscent of Caribou, they went to England to perform, which lead onto the opportunity to record with Floating Points and an appearance on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM.
Regardless of their growing success, influence (…on Spotify) and exposure, D.A.N have achieved something more important: good quality music that will calm the soul with it’s prevalent chillout aurora. Interestingly it is sung in a mix of Japanese and English enabling Daigo’s vocals to transcend the constraints of language and be perceived like a mellow ethereal instrument.
First up, the first track “SSWB” from the fantastic mini album Tempest. With a slightly faster paced beat, akin to those you would hear from trip hop musician DJ Shadow, this song will get your head nodding in no time. Clearly many others feel the same way as the official video has racked up almost 1,000,000 views on YouTube which is nothing to be sniffed at. Check it.
For some reason when discovering a new band it is easiest to head to their larger releases, such as an album, and the earlier singles and tracks can slip through the gaps in the slight attention span of the internet music explorer. “Replica” is one that survived as it shone through like a gleaming star. The A-side from the wonderful” Replica/Chance” single is so spot on with it’s tabla-esque samples and that piercing falsetto from Daigo. By the way, “Chance” is also sublime.
Next, is the track that was featured on the Fuji Highlights video. “Zidane”, is the first track from D.A.N’s eponymous first studio album. Listening to this song you understand their awareness of providing something that can be enjoyed in a DJ set, live on a huge stage or on a pair of headphones. It’s a banger of a track that brings a smokey coolness to a nonchalant funky bassline.
I promise that this article isn’t sponsored by Spotify or anything but thanks to them you can have a sneak listen to D.A.N’s eagerly awaited new album Sonatine, which will be released in July 2018. The track “Sundance” is available to listen to and it touches more and more on the dance music themes of house and disco. 18th of July. Mark it in your calendar.
If you just so happen to be hanging about in Japan in August you can catch D.A.N at Fuji Rock 2018.