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Discover: immi (Mayu Nakazawa)

[This article is a second version of a 2021 post I made about immi, with a lot of corrections]

immi (Mayu Nakazawa)

immi (Mayu Nakazawa) is a Japanese electronic artist who made her debut in 2007 with the single Cosmic Pink. immi takes listeners on a musical journey through a mix of genres – tech house, electro-funk, disco, rock, and even a bit of trance, EDM and r&b. immi accomplishes all this with a confident singing style, a shapeshifting timbre and the ability to explore both the synthesized, “robotic” side of electronic music, as well as mix in natural, smooth song portions.

immi’s music has been compared to Goldfrapp, Daft Punk, Yakushimaru Etsuko, Denki Groove and Shinichi Osawa. She has released two albums so far, Switch and Spiral, two EPs – WONDER and Alice, and a remix album, RimmiX.

I first came across immi when watching an anime series called House of Five Leaves, back in 2010. When the ending of the first episode hit, the catchy arpeggiated synth started playing, followed by a calming pad and the simultaneously warm and punctuating vocals. I realized I was listening to a vocal house song in 4/4 time… in an Edo-era anime. The song was called Sign of Love, and it was the best introduction one could hope for.

The next immi song that grabbed me was Local Train. While Nakazawa wrote and composed her own songs, she worked with producers like JETBIKINI, A-bee and N.A.I.D, and in 2011 she even formed a duo with JETBIKINI, called Tacomimi. Her songs carry a distinctive, honed production style, which blends genres and impresses with killer beats, a complex synth sound and sharp vocals.

Swimmer, with its funky beat, repetitive synths, catchy bass-line, and a wonderful chorus that made me remember Ladyhawke’s Magic or La Roux’s Quicksand, was the first song that made me think that immi’s output would be would fit for the Kitsune label. But the best thing about it was certainly the outro, something I’m just crazy about when listening to music, and displayed exactly what an electro-funk song outro should be.

One YouTube description by user honeyflash quoted the following of immi: “I love the gritty synth tracks and her crazy voice.” With that in mind, Klaxxon saw Nakazawa adopt a sound and structure more characteristic to modern rock, with the bass almost a stand in for the more commonly used bass guitar, and the song seemingly a lot darker, albeit still one with a characteristically disarming chorus.

Alice definitely qualifies as one of her best videos, with immi distilling her sound and playing with Alice in Wonderland themes. In this video, we see her blending colorful, visual kei-like visuals with gothic lolita fashion, and offering yet another great outro. Meanwhile, on Rimmix, the remix album released in 2009, Alice is reworked to sound more like Sign of Love, with a more punchy beat, while the PV (promotional video) looks more like the classic Alice story, featuring a more straightforward “down the rabbit hole” adaptation.

The RimmiX version of Crazy Cat is a notable one, ending up pretty different from the rest of her output with its more sizeable instrumental crescendo portion (and a “drop”), as well more spoken singing than usual vocalizations. On the other hand, Knockout is another winning combination of funk, electro, and pop, with that last-minute twist that almost becomes a signature move. 

In 2015, Nakazawa collaborated with PBJ, an electro-house musician, leaning more into immi’s earlier pop roots. As for Tacomimi, the sharper and more focused sound of Wherever Door is reminiscent of artists like Plaid and the OSTs for the newer Ghost in the Shell series.

Nakazawa’s soundcloud account, which contains a lot of songs not covered in this article, is a real treat for her fans. As of 2021, immi composes as part of D i AN, a collaboration between Nakazawa, producer A-Bee and vocalist Seidenba Saku, with all of their songs available in this playlist, as well as below:

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Featured image is 待ちくたびれて by Taupe Syuka

About the artist (source: grapee.jp)

Artist Taupe Syuka specializes in such fantastical art, and in a series of watercolor artwork has infused elements of Japanese culture, old and new, into wondrous world of Alice in Wonderland, all the while maintaining its original sense of quirky beauty. In a way, her work creates a whole new cultural world, but the strongest elements of the source shine through, perhaps due to her similarly mythical style. Try and spot what you can recognize, and be sure to enjoy her other work as well.

Other works by Taupe Syuka

ウサギと落ちる夢 (Usagi Tootiru)
眠れない夜 (Nemure naiyoru)
目眩 (Memai)

Reading material: Alice in Wonderland feature on The Guardian

Viewing material: The Imaginary Mindscapes community on Reddit

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