Profile: Praha Depart

This is the last of my posts about the Japanese indie bands at the Call And Response Records New Year party at Kichijoji GOK Sound on January 22nd and this is actually a double layered bit of self-promotion since in addition to the party tomorrow, Call And Response are going to release their new CD, Dot., on February 1st.


Aside from being one of the hardest working and most self-motivated bands I know, Praha Depart are one of the most explosive live experiences there is. I saw them for the first time somewhere around 2007 performing as a bassless three-piece with Mai Yano singing and doing strange little Gypsy dances over this intense, propulsive, tribal dance-punk. The name “Praha Depart” means “Prague department store” and is I think an obscure reference to the group’s fashion sense (they think it looks like the kind of thing you’d buy in a department store in Prague) but there’s this curious Eastern European atmosphere that runs through their music. It’s not as explicit as a group like Gogol Bordello, and it’s hard to know if it’s even intentional (it may just as easily be the influence of Japanese festival music, which can sometimes sound similar).

Portrait Man (bassless version)

Mai eventually started playing bass — they have experimented with adding bassists to the band to free her up for dancing, but they have never lasted long — which filled out the sound, but it’s really the sheer, tribal intensity of Junpei’s drumming and Tsukasa’s multi-layered, almost psychedelic guitars that’s the group’s signature. There are echoes of the poppier moments of Rip Rig & Panic and possibly Bristol contemporaries Pigbag in their sound, primarily in the rhythm, but there are reference points scattered all over the place. What sets them apart from other rhythm-orientated Tokyo artpunk bands (apart from Junpei’s occasionally ludicrous drum solos) is that while many of their contemporaries treat melody as something alien, to be handled with suspicion, employed as a conceptual component and delivered with perhaps an apologetic layer of self-deprecating irony, Praha Depart embrace it, Mai’s vocals running the full range from deep and rich to piercing Lydia Lunch style shrieks and Tsukasa’s guitar picking up hook after hook.

Praha Depart: Portrait Man (album version)

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