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“JUST SAYING HI” is the debut solo EP for TAMTAM lead singer KURO who takes the opportunity to layer her gorgeous vocals (and trumpet riffs) across ambient sounds, lo-fi hip hop beats and guitar licks supplied by the likes of EVISBEATS, Shin Sakiura, ji2kia and ODOLA. The result is an emotional and sonic tour-de-force that still only scratches the surface of her amazing talent and seemingly boundless creativity.

It’s been a very busy time for KURO as TAMTAM continue to tour with performances in Canada, local Japanese music festivals and a landmark appearance at Fuji Rock Festival ‘19, plus her involvement in Yoshida Yohei Group. And yet she somehow still has plenty to say, needing another creative outlet for her emotions and musical curiosity. At the same time this isn’t an image overhaul, the seeds of this solo album can be heard in TAMTAM’s sound as well as her epic collaboration with ODOLA in late 2018 which still has a criminally low play count at present.

So on “Just saying hi”, we get things like a warm breezy stroll (“PORTLAND”), an atmospheric microhouse banger (“TOKIORAIN”), phat sub bass, staccato hi-hats and exotic Eastern woodwind for a spiritual vibe (“HITOSHIREZ”), and a funky contemporary R&B track with sick guitar solo (“FOR NOTHING“). This is thanks to the inspired production, but it’s made special because of KURO’s versatile vocals (and rapping!), and it’s cool to hear her trumpet fills paired with EVISBEATS’ quirky sounds or Shin Sakiura and Kimishima Ohzora’s guitar riffs. None of the songs are alike in style, each feels like an original collaborative experiment among artists who deeply respect each other.

But of course this is all about KURO, and it feels like she didn’t hold back much for this album. “JUST SAYING HI” sounds like an outpouring of emotion from an inexhaustible source, which tends to be the case when you’re vulnerable and singing about love that is complicated. This love is one that is intense and overwhelming- “Maybe I’ll go insane, but all I want is you,” “吐き気がするほどきみのことが好きだよ” (I love so much it makes me sick). Why put your umbrella up in the rain when you’re just going to get wet anyway? (In other words, why try to protect yourself when you’re going to get hurt). There aren’t any happy endings here, no fairytale fantasies, this is about being in the moment, the future uncertain. All feeling and doing, no thinking. She wants to spend time with someone but seems like she can’t, so the time and memories of it are precious things to savour.

With a title like “JUST SAYING HI” you’d think it would be a casual affair like a jam session, but in reality it’s probably something that KURO had to do to express herself both musically and personally, to share her feelings with others or call for attention. It’s a very bold thing to do, to put yourself out there, but to turn that into compelling music is something only really talented songwriters/musicians can do. “I fell in love…like a fool.” If you’ve ever been in love, you’ll probably know how that feels. Crazy, illogical, addictive, hopeless, inescapable, sometimes frightening. With KURO and this album at least, it sounds a lot more interesting.

Tokyo ON also recommends: TAMTAM - modernluv, Shin Sakiura - Dream, Black Boboi - Agate

Royce Leong