Being a Perfume fan for the last few years has been, to say the least, a little rocky. The last two albums, Cosmic Explorer and FUTURE POP, respectively, have mostly felt like treading water, or in the case of the latter, a flawed attempt at taking on what was trendy in pop music at the time. In fact, it was really starting to look like the brain behind the group, Yasutaka Nakata had finally ran out of steam.
PLASMA marks one of the longest breaks between Perfume albums (albeit a best of and EP have come in-between), but in that time, Yasutaka Nakata has gone through a remarkable change. As many people have commented (including the great Patrick St. Michel), if anyone has benefited from the pandemic, it’s been Nakata. I already found his work on Kyary Pamyu Pamyu‘s sorely underrated 2018 album Japamyu a promising sign of a return to form, but this record has truly cemented it. It feels like Nakata has shed the need to stay hyper-relevant and ever expanding his appeal (by now he’s definitely peaked) and has finally settled on creating shorter, well thought out bodies of work that play as a whole album rather than a collection of massive bops.
And so, PLASMA indeed is the album I’ve (we’ve???) been waiting on since, well, JPN. The production here is absolutely wonderful, Nakata has put care into every facet of the soundstage. Instead of bringing in modern sounds as a new influence, he looks inward and brings out slices from his entire catalogue. The most outward sound he has brought in here is an older one- a splash of truly well constructed and blended city pop, that doesn’t feel gimmicky or trend hopping at all.
As far as the vocal work of Perfume themselves, it’s as good as always, I’ll never tire of their harmonizing which is as charming as the first day I heard the group. They still have an uncanny ability of being able to adapt whatever is thrown their way, and do it with earnest. This really goes a long way and has definitely attributed to their long career. PLASMA is no exception in that regard.
In an album that opts to keep a vibe running for it’s entire length like this, it’s hard to really pick favourite tracks, but I must point out “Spinning World” being one of the grooviest tracks under Perfume’s belt in a long, long time. It blew my mind the first time I heard it and the more I listen, the more it’s little details reveal themselves. “Flow” is absolutely beautiful, and the six minute “Drive’n The Rain” is an absolutely smooth earworm that I can’t stop listening to. However, there’s no way to spin it, I can’t find any duds in this album’s playlist, I adore it so.
Overall, this is the highest standard Perfume record in almost a decade for me. I am holding my breath for it to eventually get a vinyl pressing, and see myself keeping it on repeat for a long, long time. Just when I was starting to think 2022 was going to be the slowest year for Japanese pop for me to date, this gorgeous record drops and saved the day.
Welcome back, Perfume.