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The Beauty “Love in the Heart of the World Shout” / Faron Square “Willys Heartbeat”

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

At this time last year, Tokyo’s Cuz Me Pain label was a collection of artists recording dark and dreamy dance tracks from their bedrooms, and that got them a smattering of overseas attention from various music blogs. In 2012, a lot has changed. Various projects under the imprint’s umbrella have signed to labels domestically and abroad, highlighted by band Jesse Ruins joining the Brooklyn-based Captured Tracks. Their success has also inspired other aspiring Japan-based acts and the last 12 months has seen countless projects popping up on the Internet. The Cuz Me Pain crew has shown a definite desire to break free from the Web and into the tangible with live-house performances and physical copies of their music, two of the collective’s acts — Faron Square and The Beauty — put out records last month (Cuz Me Pain released Faron Square’s LP, and The Beauty’s debut came out via leftfield disco pioneer Kenji Takimi’s Crue-L Records).

“Love in the Heart of the World Shout” highlights the Cuz Me Pain sound well — synths, vocal samples and club beats. The standout tracks take advantage of quieter moments to make the surges hit that much harder, as on the stuttering “Put Galaxies” and album highlight “Fifth Regret.” Yuji Oda, the artist behind The Beauty, told The Japan Times last year that he likes “music you can cry to,” and the wispy voices floating through this album sound lonesome. Yet some of Oda’s vocal touches, like the choral accompaniment on “Beyond The Rainbow,” make his music sound epic and grand.

Oda is also a member of Faron Square, whose album “Willys Heartbeat” relies more on singing and is more dance friendly. The singing ends up being a mixed blessing — when smeared into the music, as on “Turn Over The Leaves” and “Wasted Words,” it sounds great. When allowed to stand out more though, it can sound awkward and ends up hurting otherwise strong numbers such as the twinkling jog “Comes Around You.” The music, meanwhile, is among the most upbeat to come out of the Cuz Me Pain fold, highlighted by the laid-back groove of “Sugar Shake” and the strobe-lit disco of “Emera.”

Neither release veers far from the Cuz Me Pain aesthetic — The Beauty sounds clearer, but that’s the only major change from the tracks Oda has posted online over the past two years (many of the Faron Square songs, meanwhile, were already online and sound more or less the same). That’s not bad, however, as both albums prove the label’s approach remains just as entrancing as it did a year ago regardless of the medium it arrives in.