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Quirky indie pop quintet Passepied were formed in 2009 by Tokyo University of the Arts graduate and keyboard maestro Haneda Narita. Their unique, tumultuous, virtuoso sound was equally informed by ’70s pop, new wave, and free jazz, and topped with attention-grabbing, high-pitched vocals. With all their album covers and music videos unified by the stylish, minimalist artwork of singer Natsuki Ogoda, Passepied were the complete package. Classically trained in piano from the age of five, Narita was later influenced by the likes of Talking Heads and Steely Dan, as well as Japanese traditional music. Inspired by impressionism, he decided, while a student, to form a band that was different from everything else around at the time. He found a kindred spirit in Ogoda, daughter of a music teacher, and they formed Passepied with guitarist Masahiro Misawa, bassist Yoshikuni Tsuyuzaki, and drummer Takuya Yao. Passepied swiftly developed a cult following, thanks in part to their music, but also to the air of mystery they cultivated around themselves, never revealing their faces except in live performance. Despite being complete unknowns with little promotion, their independently released 2011 debut mini-album, Watashi Kaika Shitawa (I Was Blossoming), became a word-of-mouth sensation and the bandmembers found themselves with a major-label contract from Warner Music, which released their second mini-album, Onomimono, in 2012. Originally very much a studio project with a dense, intricately plotted songwriting style, they approached the writing of their debut full-length album more with live performance in mind. The resulting effort, Enshutsuka Shutsuen (Performance by the Director), was fresher, rawer, and more spontaneous, with more room for the listener to breathe. It was released in 2013 to considerable critical acclaim, and that year Japan’s digital vendors flagged the band as one of the year’s best new acts, sparking even greater interest. ~ John D. Buchanan