The intersection of genres can create weird and wonderful concoctions, and the Japanese are leading the pack with hybrid genres. N-qia have released tunes on several netlabels now including La Bel Netlabel, Element Perspective and now on Go-Qualia’s Bunkai Kei netlabel and the vocalist/programming duo are destined for big things. Neofolk-electronica, schizoid-modern classical techno, Shoegaze hop…hell, I could spit out several more of these obscene genre tags and still not do these sounds justice.
Audio Illustrations is an ambitious and tumultuous ride through a magnitude of sounds that are inherently blissful and sweet as they are unpredictable and adventurous. However, the big thing for me that separates N-qia from a lot of their contemporaries is the use of vocals. When one thinks of Japanese electronica they immediately think either pruely instrumental pieces or a sampled vocal here and there, but in this instance N-qia possess a full time vocalist. On top of this, the whispery, hushed vocals compliment the dense instrumentation perfectly.
On the topic of instrumentation, what we hear throughout the 38 minutes is jaw droppingly complex and perfectly executed. From the lush string sections of Paris in the winding breakdown right before the minimal shuffling beat kicks in, to the perfect build up in ‘Fearless’, true to the tracks name it leaves nothing to waste in pushing the boundaries of electronic music into a new direction. Even wide horns play a part in the opening sequence of EP closer ‘Gratitude’, all acting as a canvas for the vocalist to paint her beautiful vocal chords over. It is sweet and touching and ever so personal as you hear hand claps in the background and lead synth lines pulsating.
The EP rounds off with three big remixes by Valance Drakes, Go-Qualia and the fantastic World’s End Girlfriend. They serve as only an added bonus to the brilliant original compositions. With quality like this, it is no wonder N-qia have signed to World’s End Girlfriends Virgin Babylon record label – like I said, big things are destined for this duo! [AS]