Dip in the Pool’s Floating Pop Aura
The ethereal beauty of the avant-garde new-wave duo's cult-single, ‘On Retinae’, hovers between East and West.
‘On Retinae’ from 1989, Re-issued by Music from Memory.
In their work spanning from the early 1980s and between Japan and the UK, the experimental pop duo Dip in the Pool have enveloped themselves in a gravity-defying ambience. Their most recognisable track ‘On Retinae’ exists liminally, floating beyond realms of language and bursting in harmony from its crystalline finesse. With melodies that swim between the sugary draw of Japanese pop and the nocturnal ambience of British punk, its dark beauty shines as an oddity.
As if to point to an ambiguity at its core, the cult single exists in two different versions, English and Japanese, to join the beginning and end of their seminal album Retinae from 1989. A defining moment by the enigmatic duo, the single has been gathering attention once again with a reissue by Dutch label Music from Memory.
Echoing Images, Reflective sounds
Named after a short story by Roald Dahl, Dip in the Pool was formed by Miyako Koda and Tatsuji Kimura in 1983 who garnered a reputation in Japanese subcultural scenes before signed to British label Rough Trade. At the time such Western independent labels were fuelled by punk’s energy but began to break away through experiments into other genres. Dip in the Pool was aesthetically lead by Miyako Koda, a charismatic figure in the fashion world. Her vocals blend alluringly into instrumentation in the manner of other contemporary synth-pop bands, The Cure or The Cocteau Twins.
While doused in the dark glamour of post-punk, Dip in the Pool pays attention to atmosphere in a way that odds to Eastern art-forms. As Japan’s traditional aesthetics have been passed on to modernity, a practice of matching music to space has fashioned a distinct sensitivity to timbre with entire scenes dedicated to ambient music. ‘On Retinae’ appears to follow this, containing some of their finest instrumentation while pushing forward meaningful restraint. Legendary musicians—including composer Yasuaki Shimizu on clarinet, and former member of the Plastics Masahide Sakuma on bass and synth—accompany them to breathe rich instrumental perfection between charged intervals of tranquility.
Meanwhile, Dip in the Pool’s lyrics—‘ fly, let us fly, sky, slice the sky, on your retinae’— paints a sublime landscape in only vague colours. Much like its split into ‘East’ and ‘West’, or its separate English and Japanese versions, its hazy character sings of a drifting identity, as much as of the feeling of gliding through atmospheres.
8 red noW (2021), a rework of Dip in the Pool’s 1997 album Wonder 8 is available through their website.
What about This Love (2022), a single by Dip in the Pool is available on Kompakt.fm.
Back cover of ‘On Retinae’ Reissue. Music from Memory.
‘Silence’ Rough Trade (1986)
‘10 Palettes’ Moon Records (1988)
‘Retinae’ Moon Records (1989)
‘Aurorae’ Moon Records (1991)
‘8 red noW’ PLANCHA (2021)
Dip in the Pool. Photo: Adi Putra
Dip in the Pool. Photo: Adi Putra
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