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In Review: Japanese Wallpaper at the Newtown Social Club

Having interviewed Japanese Wallpaper the day before his Sydney show, I was eager to see his performance and what his music would feel like in a live setting. Taking place at the Newtown Social Club, the affair was a small but an intimate one. Openers Nick Hill and indie-alt act Montaigne took the the stage first, bringing two different kinds of their own brand of musical energy to the venue –  Montaigne even rousing the crowd to their feet in an attempt to cajole them into to something more than the sedated, swaying masses they were.

However, after the two warm-up acts, as everyone was poised with anticipation to see the main event of the night, everyone… sat down – again. It was strange; this small, dark venue where everyone was seated like they would be in primary school, as if awaiting some authority figure to capture their attention and whip them into a frenzy.

That authority figure, as it would seem, was the man of the hour himself, Gab Strum (a.k.a, Japanese Wallpaper), who took the the stage swiftly, gazing out into the crowd incredulously at all the people who had turned up just to see him.

And why wouldn’t they have? It was evident from the second he launched into his iconic brand of electronic dream pop, with his remix of Montgomery’s Piñata, that he was an extremely adept and diverse musician. Palpably nervous as he took to the stage, he played his instruments with the measured precision of someone who wasn’t fully confident in their ability as performer just quite yet.

Next up was Forces from his debut EP Japanese Wallpaper. And lo and behold, the woman herself Airling, jumped up on stage to join him with a beautiful rendition of song, slowly easing them both into the thick of the performance and creating the relaxed, joyful atmosphere which would come to colour the rest of the night.

The biggest surprise of the night came when Strum himself lay vocals on tracks that, on record, featured Pepa Knight and Jesse Davidson. Launching into Waves, Strum’s voice was strong and steady, carrying the song as surely as Knight’s would have. Hopefully this means we can expect to hear him perform on some of his own tracks in the future!

It wasn’t just his co-conspirators and his own voice which helped make the night feel special – the performances of some of his most iconic remixes were also a highlight. Diaspora by The Townhouses was simply beautiful. It felt like a magical brain melt which had the crowd swaying hypnotically to the gentle, glockenspiel-esque tinkles reverberating throughout the room and everyone there was utterly transfixed by his music.

Next up, the wonderful Montaigne again joined Japanese Wallpaper on stage, reappearing to take the place of Wafia on Breathe In. Her breathy, soaring vocals made for a suitable replacement, and together, they both knocked it out of the ballpark in terms of musical production and vocal dynamism. 

Lastly, but not least, Strum was up again to finish with Arrival and Between Friends. Japanese Wallpaper is an artist who does not really cater to the masses, but more to his own brand of idiosyncratic melancholy pop, simply putting out into the world what the inside of his head must sound like. He played with concentrated enthusiasm, finishing the night off in the perfect way: singing the songs that had won him the competition, that had brought him to the very stage where he stood, in his own voice.

Check out our photos of the event here.

Read our review of Japanese Wallpaper’s album here.

Japanese Wallpaper tour dates:

Wednesday 8th July (SOLD OUT) – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne (18+) – Tickets

Saturday 11th July (SOLD OUT) – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne (18+) – Tickets

Sunday, 12th July  – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne (U18 matinee) – Tickets

Sunday 12th July ( SOLD OUT) – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne – Tickets

Friday, 24th July (SOLD OUT) – Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay – (You can try buy tickets here)

Japanese Wallpaper is also available on Spotify and iTunes via Zero By Nine.