I’ll be honest, perhaps embarrassingly Tokyo-based duo N-Qia were a new name to me, but as soon as I’d heard this, their third full-length album, I immediately Googled their previous two albums (“Popical” and the digital-only mini-album “Audio Illustrations”). It isn’t even necessarily my usual fayre, but there’s something about this particular blend of upbeat, lush, bright Japanese dream-pop that really strikes a chord.
Lots of organic sounds- pianos, some guitars and strings, clapping, and an airy, willowy vocal- are arranged in a gentle electronica space with chord pads and some subtle electronic ornamentation.
Every song runs very close to the 4-minute mark and if I were looking to criticise, I might say that there’s perhaps not quite enough variety between the 11 tracks, which do end up merging into one smooth sonic carpet. Notable tracks include “Time Leaper”, which brings an extra layer of Planet Mu-esque glitch to the rhythm programming without ever spoiling the flow, and final track “Neondrive” which skips effortlessly between soft J-pop, house and near-jazzy complex electronica patterns. The urgently-paced and nicely dynamic “Love Transmitter” is just crying out for some drum & bass remixes. The slightly rockier “Lost Kids” has hints of Lemon Jelly about it.
If asked to pick a weak spot, it would probably be “Lover’s Rock”, which feels a little uninspired and insipid compared to what precedes it.
It’s got a relaxed, feel-good and weirdly cleansing mood to it throughout, a real headspace-clearer. It’s one of those albums that will leave you thinking, “lovely”.