4s4ki – Freedom Kingdom
As the world falls further into a Kpop hole, it feels like the music coming out of Japan’s neon soaked scene has become increasingly overlooked. It’s a shame, because whatever is going on in Jpop is ostensibly more interesting. Let’s be clear: this is not a case of Kpop vs. Jpop. Kpop undeniably has its bops and merits, but lately feels more engineered than ever before. This makes the edge of whatever is happening in Japan more enticing in a way. It feels less pop machine and more pop artistry. This is particularly true of Japan’s underground and independent artists whose music is, more often than not, fearless and absolutely batshit crazy. 4s4ki (pronounced ‘asaki’) is one case in point. Since her debut in 2018, 4s4ki has naturally gravitated toward the sound of her country’s underground, much in the same way Charli XCX did in the West. Her resulting style is a hectic electronic pastiche informed by cyber aesthetics, anime, and rave culture, comparable to hyperpop. Though there’s more to it than just hardcore beats and synths. Like Kpop, her sound can pivot at any given moment, shifting from gabber, to trap, to punk in the span of a verse. Her latest album Killer In Neverland embraces this genre fluid approach, and provides us with songs like Freedom Kingdom: difficult to define, but an absolute banger.
Freedom Kingdom opens with rushing, twinkling pads before surging into thumping trance over the first verse. “How did I find you, how did you find me?” 4s4ki purrs over a whoosh of synths and a wailing riff as the beat drops. By the second chorus, the whole thing changes shape and morphs into bass heavy trap, its siren synth acting as the glue between the two seemingly disparate parts. Featured artist Swervy raps her part over a pulsing four on the floor, accented with warped trance synths that recall Infected Mushroom. It ends with two bars of a pulse raising 130 BPM. No part of Freedom Kingdom should technically make sense together, but the entire works, due in part to 4s4ki’s own computerised yet convicted delivery. It’s truly exhilarating, adventurous pop music that feels far riskier and miles more exciting than whatever Kpop is currently engineering for the Western mainstream, especially considering that this is in fact 4s4ki’s major label debut.
Listen to Freedom Kingdom below