Rap duo Chelmico originally hoped to explore childhood trauma through its music in 2020.

“When we started planning out our album, we wanted to go in a darker direction,” member Mamiko Suzuki tells The Japan Times. “Then COVID-19 happened, and we felt too depressed to go that way.”

Instead, 24-year-old Suzuki and 27-year-old Rachel Watashiga, the other half of the hip-pop project, tried to create optimistic music in a year that has brought an onslaught of bad news. The resulting album, “Maze,” features tracks the duo say were made with live shows and clubs in mind — even if the odds of the songs being performed in those spaces anytime soon remain slim.