Monday, May 23rd, 2016

FAMM’IN – Circle

Did someone say J-pop supergroup?


Katie Gill: There’s something weirdly haunting about this. It’s EDM mixed with traditional Japanese music run through a layer of Brian Reitzell. It’s a mish-mash of a compilation but I find myself adoring it all the same.

Taylor Alatorre: An entire concept album’s worth of ideas are crammed into this one mini-epic, but it works because the concept is elastic enough to accommodate them all. Their consistent refusal to go for the easy pay-off is admirable, and the lack of a real climax is justified by the meditative subject matter, as well as the wealth of electrifying moments to bask in. For example, I didn’t think it was possible to make a trap breakdown sound menacing anymore, yet here we are. Makes “7 Years” look like the scrawlings of a kindergartener.

Patrick St. Michel: This has been out almost a month now, but I still can’t believe it exists. FAMM’IN is a special one-off group taking three middle-of-the-road artists — FAKY, Yup’in, and walking .gif-reactions FEMM — created by major J-pop label Avex. The trio of acts here, in their individual states, exist in genres that go down easy and can be so bland as to be played in any mall anywhere in the world — from pleasant R&B to EDM pop — with fittingly broad lyrics. On “Circle” they created a nearly seven-minute meditation on the circular nature of life featuring vocals swathed in Auto-Tune and samples of traditional gagaku music swirling around trap beats. Every time it feels like “Circle” is going to break into something conventional — every instance where a drop could kerplunk in, or some awkward rap passage, or anything that could take it to the same exotica EDM territory as that boring Baauer song — it retreats back into sonic mist, opting for the formless over the familiar. Yet it isn’t total vapor, as everything clicks just right: when it does let go, it makes the most out of its sudden energy exertion. The label itself has labelled this “Japanese trap,” but the way it plays with modern-day and ancient Japanese court sounds is way more intriguing and unexpected than that marketing tag can convey. Nothing has surprised me more in 2016, and every time I listen to it, “Circle” demands attention on only itself.

Cassy Gress: Since FAMM’IN is a group composed of Yup’in, FEMM, and FAKY, I thought it might be useful to listen to their individual work first to see what insight it could give me into this. Turns out, they have more in common with each other than they do with this song, which makes the sound of this confusing. At six-and-a-half minutes, it needs to demonstrate a good reason for being that long, but it spends the first half of the song being something off Pure Moods Vol 3. It finally revs up and justifies FAMM’IN’s walk-dancing at around the three-minute mark, turning them into apparitions in a rainy cyberpunk future, but it doesn’t feel like the song used the prior three minutes effectively. Chop all of that off and market just the latter half, and you’re set.

Ryo Miyauchi: You can nix the middle breakdown, take away the remaining bells and sweeps, and still be left with an elaborate scaffolding all made up of the group’s vocals. Words get lost in translation in the hall of voices, but that seems to be the point: FAMM’IN have an overwhelming amount to share, and they can only express so much verbally at one time.

Will Adams: Six minutes of pure aural candy, presented without any packaging to hold it together and left to scatter across the floor.

Brad Shoup: It has the rhythmic pace and patience of “Chayeb,” just much, much greater amounts of it. “Circle” is stately. It ponders without being ponderous, and it has passages instead of hooks. It’s too brightly produced to bliss out to, which I guess means we’re supposed to pay attention.

Jonathan Bogart: From a Western perspective, a supergroup getting together to make ambient-folk-prog music with stoned New-Agey lyrics isn’t all that notable, but then from a Western perspective the people who generally do this are art-rocker dudes in their forties through sixties, not early-twenties pop starlets. The part where the koto and flutes get loud and the electronics wobble up to an almost EDM drop is pretty great, but then my tolerance for ambient-folk-prog is pretty high.

Jessica Doyle: Spikier than its first thirty seconds would suggest — and that’s what I got out of the second listen; I’m looking forward to the discoveries of the third, and fourth, and fifth.

Reader average: [8.63] (11 votes)

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5 Responses to “FAMM’IN – Circle”

  1. yessssss [8]

  2. Brad’s “Chayeb” comparison is a great spot!

  3. Thanks! Not nuts about how I described it, but it had the same feel for sure.

  4. This should be listed in 2016 high scores (sorry, Mvula’s “Overcome,” but “Phenomenal Woman” will carry on your memory)

  5. Thanks, done! “Overcome” can stay there for now though the list probably does need shortening soon.