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New Perfume: “Future Pop”

Four Disconnected Thoughts On “Future Pop,” The Song, By Perfume

1.) The hypothesis I’ve worked with over the last two years is — Yasutaka Nakata, after being way ahead of the curve in the late Aughts and influencing swaths of EDM and other corners of electronic music in the 2010s (I guess lo-fi house can’t be bundled in here), ended up trying to imitate a bunch of artists who actually got a lot of influence from him. It makes for a weird loop. But “Future Pop” is the one moment in Nakata’s 2018 output — well, I guess let’s see what that Kyary album next week brings — that shows him really zooming ahead once again. This is very much unlike Perfume music — or any Nakata-helmed J-pop — made in the past decade, anchored by an instrumental(-ish) chorus and playing around with an acoustic-centric verse that builds to a total electro explosion. He’s done this before, and done it well. But this is Nakata once again zooming out ahead, nailing the tension between speeds and finally getting how a wordless chorus can work down in 2018. This is the peak of Future Pop, and the strongest argument in favor of him making a successful pivot moving forward.

2.) I would argue the biggest shift from peak Perfume (2007 — 2014ish) to late-period Perfume is how comfortable the group has gotten with just letting their vocals hang out without any filtering. What felt like a huge reveal late on “Spice” now feels familiar on “Future Pop.” I don’t want to project on the digital masses here, but when people complain about Perfume’s musical changes in recent years, I feel this is the biggest departure making them feel uncomfortable, a move away from the digital submersion of the group’s breakthrough in favor of…well, regular singing on verses before they dive into an all-together-now style that still feels far from what they did do. I think this is the single element of Perfume’s music that is worthy of magnification over the last few years — Future Pop misses the mark because of this, more than anything else — but also it isn’t that big a deal on “Future Pop.”

3.) OK, this one is a maybe a little biased but…I swear, nobody anywhere is making mainstream pop music anywhere near this ecstatic and electronic. Forget J-pop, where Hoshino Gen discovering the MPC constitutes earth-shattering news. American music is pure misery, and even other markets pump out halftime pump-ups about how cool the artist making the song is. Music globally (in a “what people encounter when they aren’t seeking out music” kind of way) in 2018 kinda stinks, so the fact this still sounds so adventurous is worth celebration.

4.) Riffing off the above…next to nothing is excited about the future. Like, not about music, but anything, unless you are the Zozosuit billionaire flying to the moon in a few years to see what art in space would be like. Everything sucks in 2018, and if you think things are going to improve…gahhhhhhh! But god damn it, “Future Pop” the song and “Future Pop” the video actually make me feel like tomorrow might be OK, and that deserves some sort of recognition.

New Toyomu: “Maboroshi”

Toyomu’s radical re-works — especially that one — are always going to be the immediate image of the Kyoto artist for a lot of people. But “Maboroshi” shines because it channels all the other elements that have been present in Toyomu’s original music, synthesizing them into one squiggly track. Traces of his Brainfeeder-loving early days shine through, while the slightly faded synthesizer melodies recall more recent post-Kanye experiments. And adding some local charm to the whole thing is a sample of what sounds like a Japanese children’s choir singing, adding a lightness to the whole thing. Most importantly of all? Whereas previous Toyomu creations could feel closer to sketches (or just beats seeking…something), “Maboroshi” stands alone and goes through a whole arc. Listen above.

Simple Cuteness: Nakamura Sanso’s “Only You”

Cutesy bass music tends to embrace maximalism, so it’s nice to be reminded that keeping everything simple can be just as effective. Nakamura Sanso’s “Only You” emphasizes melody over anything else, and rather than load up every corner with sound lets the main vocal line and surrounding synth chirps carry the song forward. The MVP element, though, is the percussion, which goes from a half-step to a more rollicking beat that carries the song forward. Listen above.

New Tempalay: “Doushiyou”

Gotta switch to a tab not playing the video for this one. Tempalay’s brand of Mac DeMarco-indebted goofballery is hit or miss, but in the past it at least matched up with the general vibe of the music (shambling, silly, one more drink away from waking up next to Hachiko). With “Doushiyou,” the accompanying video doesn’t really do justice to the song, which actually finds the band nailing something they’ve been trying — and generally just missing — for a while now. “Doushiyou” is off-balance and tripped-out, the guitars and vocals all feeling like they are just a second behind one another. It’s unease done well, and it sounds like the group hitting something they’ve always eyed. Listen above.

AR30 Shares Summer Compilation Featuring Rigly Chang, Notuv And More

Here’s as relaxed a way to close out summer as you are going to find in 2018. AR30’s Late Summer Compilation 2018 closes out the season with a set of late-afternoon dance tunes, optimal for one last party by the pool (even if leaves are starting to muck it up). This easily could have been a chance to indulge in some beach-resort-during-off-season vibes, with sadder dance tunes, but AR30 opts to just have some fun instead. Rigly Chang channels New Jack Swing on their two contributions, one of which kicks this comp off on a particularly elastic foot. Takeda Soshi comes closest to nailing the overall feel here with “Autumn Poolside,” which approaches melancholy for the end of warmer times but uses its sparse melody to revel in what’s left. Notuv gets similarly spacey on “Hidden Things,” before pivoting right into skittery sample-sliced beats on follow up “Ultra Manic.” The end stretch is particularly joyful, embracing house euphoria (and, on DJ Badboi’s closer, lo-fi house). One last hurrah for the summer. Get it here, or listen below.