- The Japanese producer makes confusing, thrilling club music inspired by a sense of dislocation.
- "This is a trip in search of my new identity, or maybe to understand my current one," Prettybwoy says in the notes for his debut album. "I am Japanese, living in Japan, but my music is only released by labels from other countries. I am a member of SVBKVLT (China), and also Polaar (France), but where or who am I in Japan?"
This question gnaws at Tayutau, an album made in a state of dislocation. It was a multi-year job mired by unemployment and a hard-drive failure where Prettybwoy almost lost all his work, capped off by the uneven pandemic response and the controversial Olympics in Tokyo. Tayutau, which translates to "waver," reflects this uncertainty. Through uneven drum patterns, frantic melodies and creepy vocal samples, Prettybwoy paints a portrait of disarray using the wildly rhythmic techniques of the Chinese club scene he's so closely associated with. It's a confounding yet often awe-inspiring record that pushes experimental club music to its emotional limits, and reaffirms SVBKVLT's status as a core label of groundbreaking dance music.
If there's one thing that sets Prettybwoy apart from his peers, it's how he uses tuned percussion—often paired with sharp, jabbing basslines—as the central melody in many of his tracks. On "Mikoshi," the drums chart a zig-zagging path through eerie laughs and guttural grunts. On "SLT," he makes the percussion sing, as the drums hold together a track that otherwise sounds like a handful of loose, rattling marbles. It's hard to ascribe a particular style or genre to Prettybwoy's rhythms, but he touches on footwork with the floating sub-bass and stark atmosphere of "Jeopardy," while "Genetic Dance II" hints at the most volatile trap productions, with its heavy kicks and slippery tom-tom patterns that spill out in bursts and fits.
When there is a traditional melody, it's usually ominous. Vocalist III sets a grim, post-punk tone on opener "Destination," and on so many tracks Prettybwoy attacks his arrangements with furious swirling arpeggios, like that distant but foreboding feeling at the beginning of an anxiety attack. III makes another appearance on "Rat's Talk," where she's mostly consigned to syllables that echo through Prettybwoy's tumbling cascade of hectic basslines and drums that fall like loose ceiling tiles.
This might all sound like too much, but Prettybwoy's arrangements are spacious and clever. Take album highlight, "Brontides," the LP's most intense and fidgety track. The wide arrangement of percussive sounds, from drum machines to what sounds like crisp jazz kit samples, keeps it fresh. And other tracks are more like abstract sound sculptures, such as "Island," with its unexpected jackhammer percussion and dubstep wobbles. Tracks like this remind me of some of the earliest, most abstract SVBKVLT experiments, now with a more cohesive sense of composition and purpose.
But even at its most structured, Tayutau is disorienting by design. Drum patterns slip between your fingers and samples come and go, while the array of laughs, groans and squawks only add to the ambiguous mood. By wallowing in his own confusion, almost like a form of self-therapy, Prettybwoy has found his identity as a purveyor of truly mind-scrambling club tracks that delight with their unpredictability and dynamism. There's a surprising emotional weight to the album, though this is always balanced by a percussive outburst or a dazzling melodic turn. Take the organ that sweeps into "Isol," only to become a wave of white noise. It's somehow both jarring and calming all at once.
01. Destination feat. IIII
02. Genetic Dance II
05. Jeopardy feat. Primula
08. Rat's Talk feat. IIII