DAOKO’s quick rise up the J-pop ladder came via a pretty straightforward ballad. “Uchiage Hanabi,” her soaring collaboration with Kenshi Yonezu isn’t far removed from the sorts of tunes coming from established acts. And that’s a smart move! DAOKO went from periphery-dwelling artist to the second half of 2017’s most buzzed about performer.
Yet since crossing over, DAOKO has avoided settling into a predictable mold. “Step Up Love” moved closer to her hip-hop origins. Now, with “Onaji Yoru,” she spins off into something different once again:
Whereas “Step Up Love” found DAOKO calling on established oddball Yasuyuki Okamura, “Onaji Yoru” flips it around. This time, DAOKO calls on buzzed-about (but far from mainstream) band D.A.N. to provide her a minimalist groove. It turns out to be a perfect pairing; on their own, D.A.N. act as a dance act constructed like a band, their songs consisting of repetitive grooves played on guitars and keyboards. It often feels like it is missing something, and it turns out that, like a lot of producers, they were born to make backdrops for others. They lay down a spacious soundtrack featuring violin plucks and menacing bass notes. They create an atmosphere apt for streets at night, slightly mysterious and always sounding just a touch unnerving.
It works well with DAOKO’s voice. Her music isn’t the only aspect changing from song to song, the way she has been singing has shifted on each of her songs recently, as if she’s trying out different vocal identities for herself. For “Onaji Yoru,” she sings in something approaching a deep whisper, which adds to the noir-like feel of the song (not far from the shadowy rock of Paellas). At times, her vocals get multi-tracked into a wisp, adding a dreamy element to this song that boils over in its final stretch.
DAOKO appears to be making the most of her newfound attention, and trying to push her sound in a different direction. Let’s see where she heads next.
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