Parupunte “Primitive” (Tanukineiri Records)
The debut mini-album from Osaka duo Parupunte starts off sunny enough. A bit of synthesizer leads into an easygoing guitar line and beat, the sort of relaxed atmosphere you might expect from a pair of indie popsters. Then, a sudden guitar screech (think Radiohead’s “Creep”) rips through. The song, “Hikari no Kuni” (“Sunlight Country”), carries on like nothing happened, but the impact lingers, adding a sense of unease to what follows — a feeling that re-emerges throughout the seven-song set. These unexpected twists pop up throughout “Primitive” and bless Parupunte’s first collection with a tension that a lot of Japanese indie pop tends to lack, which firmly establishes the duo as an act to watch.
Many bands raised on the Sarah Records catalog that have emerged in Japan in recent years — many from the Kansai region, like Parupunte — focus on being as catchy as possible. Parupunte handles this task well across “Primal,” especially when embracing summer vibes. “Nyantoka Niyarusa” hopscotches forward via a bright melody and bouncy vocals, while “Shun Maomoon” plays out over squiggly guitar that sweetens the verses significantly, making it the most summer-ready cut on the release. Parupunte has the song-writing ability and vocal chops to stand alongside any other young indie outfit out there.
It’s the small details and twists, though, that push “Primitive” ahead of the pack. “Maho o Kakete” (“Under Your Spell”) works as a woozy ballad, but gets better (and a touch creepier) when the male vocal drifts in, barely audible in the chorus. “Tomei Ningen” (“Transparent Person”) similarly unfolds as a pleasant mid-tempo stroll, but then a spoken-word verse emerges, playing at the same time as singing. It’s a disorienting effect, and a wrinkle that makes Parupunte’s debut all the more charming. It’s almost not surprising that when you get to the finale, the duo whips out a drum ‘n’ bass track over which the two members deliver the album’s most joyful moment. Almost not surprising.
Parupunte’s “Primitive” is available via the Tanukineiri Records Bandcamp page: www.tanukineirirecords.bandcamp.com/album/primitive.