Perfume – LEVEL3 | ALBUM REVIEW

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Two years. Two long years have passed since the good yet not totally satisfying JPN came out, and many things have changed in the Perfume world since then: The label shift from Tokuma Japan Communications to Universal Music Japan and the foundation of the Perfume Records label,two World Tours that saw the girls performing overseas from the main capitals of Asia to the historical cities of Europe, the long desired opening of the WORLD P.T.A. Fanclub, the coming of Daito Manabe to the Perfume Team, two Live DVDs and the adoption of the Blu-Ray format, four singles that made discuss (both in positive and negative) the entire fandom, and last but not least, a closer interaction with the fans through social networks and a new Global Website dedicated to the fans around the world.

Two years, and a career that everyone thought was already at its highest peak got even higher and successful, expanding the horizons while maintaining the origins, without trading the soul for a bigger success.

And now we are, dealing with the result of many important decisions that made this period of the Perfume career extremely important, and this result is called LEVEL3. A new album that means a lot both for Perfume and their fans, carrying a heavy weight on its shoulders which is the necessity of proving that everything has changed for the better, that all the brave steps our girls took to fulfill their dreams once again were worthy and necessary to keep on living, showing that they could reach the Next Level even at the top of glory.

LEVEL3 is an album that is not afraid to express its nature in every second, and you can understand how things will go in this journey since the very first moment, when Enter the Sphere opens the gates of the album; Our ears get an immediate familiar feeling as theGlobal Website track starts to rock the speakers, and we can notice how this great composition has been tuned down a bit and enriched by more details and a proper structure to fit its main role of Introduction song. But the real surprise comes when the voices of A-chan, Nocchi and Kashiyuka reach our ears for the first time: “Enter the Sphere”, as our girls sing, is a clear reference of theiropening to the world they’ve already conquered in good part, while everything in the background is a pure cascade of techno synths and melodies. It’s a wonderful feeling, something that every Perfume fan was waiting for a very long time, and as we get used it a well done mix introducesSpring of Life in its album-mix version. A new groove introduces what is one of the best revisitation of this album, not only adding new electronic elements that finally make the song more coherent but also modifying its structure, mainly focused on the famoustechno bridge, now inserted at the beginning to make the transition with the first track flow better and extended during the bridge part to give the final electro touch to make the song finally flow the way it should have since the beginning, and it’s such a clear improvement that you’ll hardly come back to the single version after hearing this new mix.

After an exciting beginning, the journey continues with Magic of Love (album-mix), now elaborated to fit better in the contest of the album. The new melody created by Yasutaka Nakata is the highlight of this new mix, and its mellow mood will be there for most of the track’s length, replacing the more instrumentally complex parts and offering a calmer and slightly melancholic feeling smartly set up to make the listener ready for the first new track of LEVEL3, which is Clockwork. With a relaxing and calm vibe, this song is a good companion for the ears and the spirit, the typical track you want to listen when traveling or doing something you love to do, and even though the girls’ voices are more processed than the previous songs the melodic singing is enjoyable and enforces the simple yet lovely melodies of this song, making this thoughtless and pleasant track a must for your listening sessions. The fun goes on with the long anticipated promoting track of the album, which is the amazing 1mm that all of us already learned to love thanks to the 80′s vibeand the well known catchy chorus, featuring our girls’ voices as highlight of the show once again, making this song one of the catchiest ones of the album: No matter how many times you already played this track, your finger will just refuse to skip it… Something that maybe can’t be said for the following track, which is the controversial Mirai no Museum. As described in the single review back in February, this is not a bad track at all: It’s lovely, catchy and definitely well produced, the singing of the girls is clearer than ever and the instrumental fits the contest it has been created for perfectly, but sadly it’s a song that didn’t fit the role of A-side in the single as it doesn’t fit the role of middle-section trackin this album, and while it gains a little bit of exposure, it breaks the musical line that was going just fine until this moment. We’re talking about a clear mistake made some time ago of which we can see the reflection now, but looking at the bright side, this is probablythe only true issue of the entire album; Not a bad song, but it could have received a proper identity and more appreciation in the circle of the B-sides.

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Moving along we find ourselves right in the middle of the album, and you’d better get ready to throw away your Doraemon hat and hide your parents, your dog, your cat, your grandma and everyone around you, because Party Maker is going to destroy everything getting on its way. Let’s be honest: For many years most of the Perfume fans pretended “A song like GAME and Edge”, a track that could break the walls with a powerful bass and feature a dark vibe without losing the Perfume touch; Party Maker not only satisfies these requirements, it goes way further, it smashes through the boundaries of the Perfume sound and brings it to a higher pointwhere all the world can see it, where no one can ignore it. The continuos chord progressions, the fresh synths going on and the break preceding the brutal bass drop are literally an overload of unexpected and surprising feelings that will literally give yougoosebumps. It seems like Nakata got free of the chains he had for years and went into beast mode, bringing what everyone wantedto hear from Perfume since Triangle, doing it better than ever. Party Maker is a true piece of Techno/Dance music that is already the anthem of LEVEL3 simply because it couldn’t be otherwise, and the result is stunning.

Ok, you can bring all your loved ones back now that the storm is over. Why not relaxing with a sweet, tender song? Because Furikaeru To Iru Yo is just here, and it’s a lovely song you don’t want to leave for any reason. This is an interesting track to analyze: The beginning is delicate, almost traditional-sounding, until a dubstep beat coupled by a dark electronic synth makes its entrance in the track, surprisingly fitting the atmosphere greatly and leaving space to the sweet voices of the girls, proving once again the talent of Yasutaka Nakata as producer; This is also the song emphasizing the natural voices of the girls the most, that find home in the lovely instrumental well balanced between heavy beats and delicate melodies. This track warms your heart like a walk in the lovely street of Nippori or a hot matcha latte in a Starbucks during winter time. Lovely.

Now it’s time to get back on track with the party, and the B-side triplet Point /Daijobanai / Handy Man is one of the best representations of the musical flow that cross the entire structure of LEVEL3. Surprisingly matching the previous Furikaeru To Iru Yovery well, the Drum ‘n Bass groove and the colorful instrumental of Point surround the listener between heavenly sounds and the sweet singing of the girls, while Daijobanaibrings the fun back with its thoughtless melody and speed, guaranteeing a viral factor emphasized by the instrumental that plays with the girls’ voice (one of Nakata’s favorite games). After the glitchy effects ofDaijobanai, it’s time for her majesty Handy Man to take its place in the album, where arabic melodies mixed with western electro influences create one of the most addicting songs of this era, proving once again the variousness of this album. One hit after another, these great B-sides build an impressive wall of sound, convincing the listener of how this album is basically an unstoppable sequence of good quality songs.

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We’re reaching the end of the album, but there’s still a lot of good music to go through. The new Sleeping Beauty, introduced by a dragging dance intro, creates a dreaming atmosphere based on a classic dance beat and a flying melody supported by a synth that will make more than one fan remember the good old Butterfly, as the voices of the girls gently caress the instrumental constantly developing new melodies, and even though the synth in the central part might sound a bit too acute at first, this track grows through its length between chord progressions and the minimal yet enchanting singing of the girls, with a more than convincing result. Spending all my Time (album-mix) brings back the techno sounds after the dreaming atmosphere of Sleeping Beauty, and we can notice how this version takes a lot (almost everything) from the amazing Cannes Lions/World Tour 2nd version, adapting the structure to fit better the album concept in a nailed combination between the original version and the mix used for the mapping projection performances created by Rhizomatiks, bringing the very last Techno vibe of the album before the ending of this stunning journey called Dream Land. The ending track of LEVEL3 uses delicate sounds and instruments to lead the listener through the main part of the song made of alternated techno and dubstep beats, well balanced as usual, while the lovely voices of our girls fly on a classic Intro-verse-bridge-chorus structure, essential to guarantee the quiet needed after such a long journey made of heavy beats and wonderful melodies.

The moment has arrived: The volume goes down, the sound slowly disappears… this epic journey is over. But one thing is for sure:LEVEL3 will keep playing in our minds for a long, long time.


Verdict

The era preceding this album has been very particular and controversial, and no one had a clear idea of what to expect until the very last moment. But now that this long awaited album has finally arrived, there are no doubts anymore: LEVEL3 is a masterpiece not only of the Perfume discography, but also of the Techno-pop genre. It has some issues here and there, but we’re talking about details that could never ruin such a masterfully crafted product.

Everything is extremely well balanced, and all the new and old sides of the Perfume sound are here as witnesses of their long career; No matter if you prefer the cuter sounds, the most powerful beats or their more standard J-pop sound, all of these aspects are present in LEVEL3 and perfectly mixed together, maintaining a constant Techno/Dance soul that guarantees a clear personality to the entire album. You could blast your speakers at your home party thanks to songs like Enter the Sphere, Party Maker andHandy Man, or relaxing with Furikaeru to Itu Yo, Sleeping Beauty and Dream Land when you want to take a break and lay in your bed before sleeping. It’s an album that all the Perfume fans will love and a perfect opera to introduce new fans who want to discover the magic of this group composed by three talented and beautiful girls.

For many years we have used GAME and Triangle as terms of comparison when talking about Perfume albums. LEVEL3 emerges and reaches the same level of the old school Perfume classics and goes even higher, as expression of the Perfume sound at its best and pushing the boundaries further at the same time. After listening to this album it’s undeniably evident how these girls, after thirteen years of career, released their most mature and complete album, a milestone that not every artist out there can reach.

LEVEL3 is the past, the present and the future of Perfume, the perfect portrait of this group and of their long and successful career. It’s time to leave the past behind and realize that, right now, LEVEL3 is the best Perfume album out there.

Absolutely brilliant.

Vote: 9/10

Tracklist

01. Enter the Sphere
02. Spring of Life (Album-mix)
03. Magic of Love (Album-mix)
04. Clockwork
05. 1mm
06. 未来のミュージアム (Mirai no Museum)
07. Party Maker
08. ふりかえるといるよ (Furikaeru to iru yo)
09. ポイント (Point)
10. だいじょばない (Daijobanai)
11. Handy Man
12. Sleeping Beauty
13. Spending all my time (Album-mix)
14. Dream Land

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