New year: new music. If you’re struggling with the dark depths of January then Soft may be the antidote for your existential blues.
Actually there’s a delicious irony in the air whilst listening to Soft as the rain falls hard on my oh so English home town.
Japanese Heart Software is Melbourne’s Nat Chippy who no doubt crafted these songs in much sunnier conditions and has been teasing us with the occasional track, including a couple released by Sunday Records on two of their excellent compilations. But now the more demanding test of the debut album…
Drag pulls you in and holds tight. Soft synths, metronomic rhythms, guitar raging like a boiling sea just below the surface, Nat’s voice soft and all enveloping. As a statement of intent it speaks volumes, deep, delicate but with a steely inner strength. The all too common pitfall of crossing into the realm of insubstantial but pretty aural wallpaper neatly sidestepped.
This is cinematic dream pop as its absolute blissful best, and yet there is a definite sense of anxiety at the edges, just check Passenger’s stately, almost Atmosphere-esque coda or the dark drive of Just a Dream where Disintegration era Cure feels just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Sentimental Heart takes a New Order bass line and uses it to propel us into a hall of mirrors, synths and vocals merging in a wordless chime.
Upending dream pop song title stereotypes with a knowing wink, we have Beer and Skittles, a gliding lullaby with heartbeat mimicking rhythms. Any link to drinking or bowling remains happily unclear, although of course escape takes many forms and who am I to judge?
Title track and previous single, Soft is a gorgeous epic sigh of a song, toughened beautifully via a fuzzed-up chugging guitar riff.
But then for sheer beauty it’s outpaced by Flower, put this on a loop and drift away on a tide of melancholy dreaming as synths rise and fall into the distance following the bereft and heartbroken fragility of its beatless intro. Tip: headphone listening mandatory for full auditory pleasure, then you get to savour Nat’s vocals moving from right to left and back before the tape runs down and you unwilling emerge blinking in the harsh light of reality.
I think we can safely say this is music that exists to soundtrack your life in all it’s crazy up and down glory, not Soft at all really…