Any given The Japanese House track is, to me, the equivalent of a therapy session. As an unceasing fan of Amber Bain’s solo project since her 2015 debut EP, she continues to blow me out of the water with her exceptionally crafted dream-pop electronica sound.
Chewing Cotton Wool is the latest record to be released by Amber – a collection of four heart-breaking, reflective, and definitive tracks which “punctuate the stages of coming out of a relationship and entering into a new phase”, according to a statement which Amber shared on socials upon the EP’s release.
The introductory ‘Sharing Beds’ is quite minimal sonically, led by piano and carried by reverb-drenched vocals in a sour acknowledgment of a recent ex-lover sleeping with other people while Amber is a “fucking mess”. Signalling the first step in a journey towards healing, ‘Something Has to Change’ approaches a set of habits which, well, has to change in order for Amber to get better. Cyclical lyrics paired with upbeat synthwork make for a catchy track about a desire to break a vicious circle.
Undoubtedly the most anticipated track of the EP, ‘Dionne’ features Bon Iver vocalist Justin Vernon. This is a collaboration which makes perfect sense. Both artists bring the unique aspects of their respective styles to create a transcendent song which lies somewhere between indie and folktronica. Though the production is incredible, it’s the lyrics which make this track stand out. Amber addresses the inner conflict that comes with not quite being over an ex whilst trying to maintain civility with them. The lyric “I know it’s not very sexy when somebody loves you this much and knows you this well” resonates with me deeply – I’m sure most of us can relate to how scary it is to still harbour feelings of intimacy and vulnerability towards someone after a breakup.
The EP is brought to a gut-wrenching close with eponymous ballad ‘Chewing Cotton Wool’. It’s a much more stripped back song in its composition, with Amber’s haunting vocals taking front and centre over delicate piano. Each verse represents a proverbial death of a relationship and the memory of an ex-lover, whilst taking into account the ways in which this person is forever ingrained in literally everything Amber does. In a way, this is closure in itself, and coming to terms with the past (and present) allows for a new stage to begin.
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