Despite having a reputation as an electro-pop group, Perfume’s career has been marked by constant changes both in situation and sound. The trio started their existence creating pretty chirpy and pretty cookie-cutter idol pop, before relocating to Tokyo and having Yasutaka Nakata come on board. Even then, though, he initially dabbled in a neo-Shibuya-kei sound that slowly morphed into the maximalist club sound they broke through with. Even then, they’ve spent the last decade trying out different sounds, from fest-ready EDM to recent future bass experiments on last year’s Future Pop.
New single “Saisei,” however, finds Perfume pivoting back to a style that has yielded strong results in their past. The number, which functions as the theme for the film Shijinsou no Satsujin, recalls an earlier sound from the group’s history, one built on galloping repetition and goes-down-easy vocals. Listen to the song below.
The immediate points of comparison that jump to my mind when listening to “Saisei” are numbers such as “Vitamin Drop” and “Have A Stroll.” These songs aren’t quite the arena-eyeing electro-pop Perfume built their fame on, but they still surge. What the trio and producer Nakata are drawing from here is the less busy world of techno-pop, a sound popularized in Japan by Yellow Magic Orchestra and enjoying a heyday in the early 1980s. Perfume’s earliest numbers nodded to this period, and “Saisei” leans closer to this sonic style, complete with subtle details like the piano notes adding extra depth to the number. The more centered approach to melody and rhythm also works well within the theme of the song, riffing on the title’s potential reference to the idea of rebirth (check those clock ticks weaved in). No need for any major twists and turns when everything returns to the starting point eventually.
Perfume’s various explorations of new electronic sounds have produced plenty of memorable moments, but it’s nice to revisit a familiar formula and see them still nail it.