On the very fringe of the British consciousness and with barely a mainstream UK radio play, Japanese Breakfast brought a blend of Far-East influenced Far-West indie pop to a sell out crowd in Islington – somewhere in the middle.
Opening with the first two tracks from 2016 debut Psychopomp, played with all of the sparkle and drive from the album, it’s hard to make the connection to the grief that consumed Michelle Zauner at the time of it being written. It’s a sound that welcomed the natural reverb of the Assembly Rooms.
The breadth of their sonic ability was soon demonstrated as they played Machinist from 2017 follow-up Soft Sounds from Another Planet. With both the sampled drums and dance inspired bassline sat high up in the mix, the more experimental songs really worked well live. Michelle’s energy on stage when not playing guitar was spread equally between dancing, triggering samples and providing powerful vocals.
As expected, it’s one of the defining features of Japanese Breakfast’s sound; Michelle’s voice shimmers through intentionally drawn out and slurred lyrics in a way that’s as if Bjork had been Asian instead of Icelandic. This was emphasised when the other members of her band exited the stage for This House and Till Death – delivered with rich vocals and guitar played through an aptly Japanese Roland Jazz Chorus, backed up by subtle electric piano from co-producer Craig Hendrix.
In fact, each of the four musicians on stage this evening firmly earned their place, with the band sounding full but never cluttered. Musical embellishments across synths, guitar and bass captured your attention, whilst tracks were used to provide lush pads and harmonies.
Japanese Breakfast finished up their set with The Body is a Blade which delivered one final dose of well received sweet, meek guitar pop. I strongly recommend listening to their music and catching them live as they play a number of UK and European dates over the next couple of weeks.