Talking with Takeaki Maruyama in a Tokyo cafe, I'm caught off guard when the dubstep artist better known as Goth-Trad suggests that his fourth and latest album is pop. When I let it sink in, though, I realize that "New Epoch" could in fact be the perfect postdisaster-pop album.
Don't get him wrong: The 33-year-old isn't talking about the kind of pop-dubstep, or "brostep," that has grabbed hold of U.S. clubs in the six years since he released his third album, "Mad Raver's Dance Floor." That form of the genre (so-called for its popularity among U.S. frat boys) has crashed commercial charts via songs such as pop princess Britney Spears' "Hold it Against Me" and Japanese R&B singer Daichi Miura's "Black Hole"; it's the defining sound of British producer Rusko and the hugely successful U.S. export Skrillex, who is nominated for five Grammys at this weekend's awards show in Los Angeles.
No, Maruyama's idea of dubstep — and pop music — is different. He sees pop as being easy to understand, and disagrees with descriptions of his own work as being experimental and complex. He says good pop music allows you to visualize what you're listening to — even if those visualizations are kind of dark.