The proliferation of dubstep in pop music can be overwhelming: when it’s not making puerile appearances in bridges or breakdowns, it’s really just masquerading as its older and more experienced brother, electro house. It’s easy to mix the two up because they have a lot of the same elements; this doesn’t make it interchangeable, just harder to decide if it’s worth caring about. mini’s debut album, ELECTRO HAKO BANBAN PICASSO, which was a long time coming, also comes off as a long time process, with one half offering standard electro-pop and the other half scouting the urban landmine of rough synths and drops, with only one brief interlude that might suffer references to Skrillex. It’s also really easy to make comparisons to Mizca or Yasutaka Nakata’s work, especially since mini’s debut single was remixed by the electro titan, but it’s simply too easy to sum up staccato and cracked wordplay as a capsule song.
“HAKO Princess,” the album’s highlight, illustrates the album’s use of unconventional structures and vocals as synths. In some instances, mini’s voice is so autotuned, it’s hard to tell where she ends and the moog begins. When it feels overwhelming, the album falls back on catchy choruses and a Malibu Convertible approach to melodies (Malibu Convertible being the producer of Tommy february6’s seminal homages to the 80s, whose also long-awaited seven-years-in-the-making comeback just sounds like successfully remixed Tommy heavenly6 songs), like in “Take A Feel,” one of the albums best approaches to crafting a Yuu Hayami-original, down to the escalating drum patterns.
The album lags in the middle, less Strawberry Switchblade, more JUJU. There’s also a bit more room for other influences, like the Latin freestyle in “S,GN” or the slightly super eurobeat of “Lad Style.” The album lovingly embraces a rich palette of electronic styles from at least four decades: like the album title’s eccentric coupling of abstract words that only hint at the album’s general essence rather than any concrete summation, it’s a vibrant array of the wide world of dance styles available at a musician’s fingertips without coming off as disjointed. Almost halfway through the year, and there’s finally a Japanese full-length contender for a best-of list.