The Japanese House concluded her UK tour at KOKO in Camden last weekJustin Higuchi

I think we can all agree that it takes something pretty extraordinary to get a Cambridge student out of the library in exam term. It takes something even more extraordinary to get a Cambridge student out of the library, on a train and to a gig at KOKO in London, in the pouring rain, less than two weeks before her first exam. The final night of The Japanese House’s UK tour, however, was well worth foregoing a library session for.

Amber Bain was tipped for big things at the beginning of the year, featuring in the BBC’s Sound of 2017 and several other shortlists. Of course, with such accolades comes great expectations and responsibility, and so the stakes were set high for the release of her most recent single, Saw You in a Dream, in April, and even higher for her European tour. However, Bain (aka The Japanese House) has risen to the challenge, producing her catchiest single yet and putting on a show that was nothing short of magical.

“A show that was nothing short of magical”

It’s easy to liken Bain, who originally heralds from Buckinghamshire, to The xx, London Grammar, or The 1975, owing to the haunting vocals and avant-garde lyrics of her ethereal electro-pop. There was even a theory, in the early days, that she was Matt Healy. I can confirm, however, that The Japanese House is very much a singer/songwriter in her own right, and is quite unlike anyone else on the current British electronic scene. What differentiates her from The 1975, whom she supported on their 2016 UK tour and who have produced some of her music, is her humility.

Bain does not strike me as someone whose primary aim is to ‘make it big’. On stage, she is fairly unassuming; her voice alone is so captivating that there was little need for much else, aside from some very effective lighting and tasteful use of the disco ball. Transitions between songs were smooth and swift, with Bain keeping her talking to a minimum, merely expressing her gratitude and disbelief at the size of the crowd. No theatricality was necessary; the opening of Clean, which started the show, was enough to have everyone hypnotised. This show was purely about the music, not about the popstar.

“Bain does not strike me as someone whose primary aim is to ‘make it big’”

And rightly so, because The Japanese House’s music deserves to be in the spotlight. Her prowess ranges from melancholy synthpop, epitomised by Sister and Pools to Bathe In, to uplifting electro-ballads such as Face Like Thunder and Saw You In a Dream. Bain is yet to release a full album, but out of the three EPs already available, there is not one song that disappoints. My personal favourite, Still, is the perfect soundtrack for revision and Leon, which comes in at a close second, elegantly showcases the eerily beautiful vocals and unique lyrics that define The Japanese House’s sound.

There are some indications in Saw You In a Dream, Bain’s most recent release, that her upcoming album will be slightly more ‘poppy’ than her earlier work. It largely adheres to the structure of a successful pop song, ticking the boxes with a catchy chorus and bridge, and is notably more upbeat than some of her previous singles. However, Bain makes it work, effectively incorporating her synth-based ethereality into what is an undeniably more ‘mainstream’ track. As a result my hopes are high for her debut album, the release date of which is yet to be announced.

I strongly encourage you to go and see The Japanese House live if you get the chance. Above all, she offers a valuable lesson in true musicianship, and her music provides some welcome respite from the pressures of exam term!

The Japanese House is playing at Parklife, Latitude, Reading and Leeds festivals this summer, among others. Her single, Saw You In a Dream, is available on iTunes now