Whenever Perfume releases a new record, it’s rarely ever treated like a run-of-the-mill album drop. The trio of Kashiyuka, A~chan, and Nocchi have been known to craft unique sounds into the J-POP genre, in the same way artists like Hikaru Utada or Jack White rewrite the how-to books of their respective music scenes. Perfume’s latest album Future Pop is no different, shaking up the very foundation that they’ve built since their 2002 debut, whilst rebuilding an electropop palace over the debris that remains.
It’s somewhat surprising that the album title track begins with a simplistic acoustic guitar, but then it builds itself up towards a space age realm of techno beauty. Lyrically, Perfume come off as calm but calculating, like a trio of lionesses waiting to pounce on their clueless prey. Instead of being made into their next meal, the trio instead grabs its listeners with the love-infused “If You Wanna.” Acting coy, the ladies throw their hearts into the ears of it audience, showcasing a level of cuteness that slams its target head-on like a romance-powered meteor.
Although their sound aims itself towards the entire world, it’s when Perfume embraces their Japanese upbringing when their music shines. “Tiny Baby” is a Hello Kitty anthem waiting to happen, delivering a “happy dreamy” atmosphere that embodies the kawaii culture with a wink & a smile. Meanwhile, “Tokyo Girl” captures a late-night Shibuya soundscape that embraces the starriest of skies that hover over the bright lights and lively streets of Dogenzaka.
Even when the trio’s vocals are used at its most minimal, the melodies that pop out can be transcending. “Fusion” is a great example of this, delivering a chiptune-inspired beat that seemingly builds up towards an impending Metroid-like boss battle waiting in the wings. It’s this moment where their producer Yasutaka Nataka gets his moment to shine, crafting one powerful song that craves to be blared in clubs and dance halls all over the world. On the other side of the minimalistic spectrum, “Mugenmirai” puts most of the focus on Perfume’s vocals. Despite the more simplistic display of its sound, Kashiyuka, A~chan, and Nocchi make the track glow with their soft harmonies meshing well with Nataka’s bombastic bass drops.
“Tenku” keeps the party going, delivering a wondrous sound that bridges the many dance worlds and scenes into one massive get-together. Album closer “Everyday” is Perfume thanking their fans for their support. With an Asian-fused beat, the trio takes its electro house style and creates a warm atmosphere in a similar fashion as either Galantis or Kaskade. Even as the song fades out from your speakers, the happiness that it concocts will still linger within you.
Perfume demonstrates the sheer power of their sound in Future Pop, one that encapsulates the many strengths the Hiroshima-based group have been tirelessly building throughout their careers. Once again, Perfume showcase how both “cuteness” and “dominance” can go hand-in-hand with one another, in ways that will make conquering the pop world all the more easier for them. Give it a year or so, and the influence that Future Pop creates will come pouring out from the J-POP scene, just as Perfume’s previous works have done so in the past.
FINAL GRADE: 4.5 stars (out of five)
Promotional consideration provided by Aya Nogami of Universal Music Japan
About the Author:
Evan Bourgault is a gaming/anime/music critic and Podcast host over at the ElectricSistaHood and its “brother” site Boston Bastard Brigade. His love for the Japanese music scene inspired him to start the No Borders No Race radio show in 2006 at his Salem State College alma mater, which he now does as a Podcast show every other Tuesday. Through his One-On-One interview series, Evan has had the opportunity to interview the pillows, Satellite Young, and Electric Eel Shock, as well as non-Japanese acts such as Frank Turner, Fucked Up, and Skinny Lister. Follow Evan on Twitter at @KingBabyDuckESH!