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The "Near Future Technopop Unit"
November 7, 2008 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Perfume, a three-girl Japanese technopop sensation formed in 2001 now consisting of Nocchi, Kashikuya and A~chan, is about to release their ninth single, "Dream Fighter". Perfume's July 2008 single "Love the World" was the first technopop song ever to debut at #1 on the Oricon sales chart. The previous highest debut for techno was Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Kimi ni, Munekyun" 25 years ago in 1983. (original article citing #1 record translated via Google translator)

You may know them for their Japanese recycling campaign ads or annoyingly catchy single version of the song (complete with dance routine), "Polyrhythm".
posted by Unicorn on the cob (61 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
kawaii
posted by kozad at 9:10 PM on November 7, 2008


I... I can see the fnords!
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:35 PM on November 7, 2008


I'm sure this is beside the point, and the fnords are lovely this time of year, but I have to ask: why are there three of them, other than so one can be Sporty Perfume, one can be Scary Perfume, one can be Posh Perfume, and they can dance together? Do they write songs or play instruments or sing harmonies? The linked articles are short on fact.
posted by pracowity at 9:52 PM on November 7, 2008


Better links for the group and members, including pictures: Perfume, Nocchi, Kashiyuka, A~chan.
posted by Class Goat at 9:56 PM on November 7, 2008


Well, this is as good a place to ask as anywhere, but can anyone explain for me the fascination with blood type in Japanese profiles (e.g., the ones Class Goat linked, and every video game Japan has ever made)?
posted by barnacles at 10:24 PM on November 7, 2008


Japanese blood type superstition
posted by Class Goat at 11:00 PM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


More info on that here in this Wiki page on Japanese blood type theory of personality.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:13 PM on November 7, 2008


love perfume! also I will take this moment to say that tommy february6 more or less changed my sense of what contemporary pop music (that was not hip-hop) was capable of - she is pretty amazing.
posted by huffa at 11:25 PM on November 7, 2008


Both songs posted would make great background noise for Pepsi/Hipster Auto/Skittles/etc. jingles. Other than that they seemed quite bland to me. Upon further in-depth audio research, each song I've listened to is like eating different colored pints of cake frosting, with a once-hermetically-sealed plastic spork, in a sterilized white padded room...post ingestion of little pink and purple polka-dotted pills. In other words, my music is better than yours.

But seriously, put Lemmy of Motorhead singing on top of the music and I think you'd have a hit. Two great tastes!

The best thing about music like this, IMO, is the music that backlashes from it. Disgust can breed beauty. Unspeakable horror can yield sublime, transcendent art. So, with this in mind, Perfume may just spawn the next Mozart.
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 11:31 PM on November 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Having watched TBS's CDTV religiously since before it was CTDV, lemme just offer my considered opinion that this group's repertoire and manner is entirely annoying. Scandal, on the other hand, might have something, if indeed they can do more than mime playing instuments.

Don't look now, but SPEED has become MAX, LOL.
posted by troy at 11:51 PM on November 7, 2008


"The best thing about music like this, IMO, is the music that backlashes from it. Disgust can breed beauty. "

This sentiment is certainly reflective of a kind of early 80's punk ethos that drove an extremely vibrant musical and cultural scene - one that I myself have great fondness for. (To this day I would count both Minor Threat and the Germs among my favorite bands.) However, in this moment there are two things which argue against continuing to adhere strictly to this anti-pop, anti-mass cultural sentiment. First, doing a bit of research into musical genres like Italo disco, Chicago house, and even early hip-hop (which was heavily disco influenced) very quickly makes one realize that interest in the sound palette of contemporary pop music cannot be associated with conservative politics or aesthetics. Of course, a band like Perfume is very much a part of the corporate musical establishment. But, if we look towards a writer like Stuart Hall, it is possible to see the appreciation and appropriation of otherwise conservative culture as something more than simple conciliation to capitalist, bourgeois politics and culture. Therefore, especially outside of Japan, in a location on any of the six continents where relatively few people have heard of a group like Perfume, the interest in music like this cannot so easily be understood as continuous with the (corporate) culture that (more than likely) produced it.

Also, mentions of Mozart and "transcendent art" lead me to think back towards Clement Greenberg-esque distinctions between "kitsch" and "high" or avant-garde art. However, as artists as diverse as Stuart Davis, Andy Warhol, and Gerhard Richter have shown these hard and fast distinctions are suspect at best.
posted by huffa at 11:54 PM on November 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


A little cake frosting never hurt anyone.
posted by delmoi at 12:04 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


A little cake frosting never hurt anyone.

I'm not so sure about that...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:50 AM on November 8, 2008


The best thing about music like this, IMO, is the music that backlashes from it. Disgust can breed beauty. Unspeakable horror can yield sublime, transcendent art. So, with this in mind, Perfume may just spawn the next Mozart.

In addition to huffa's interesting reply to Sir BoBo's comment, I would add this: musicians are, on the whole, not as snobbish and hierarchical in their thinking as many music fans all too often are. The next "Mozart" that you find to your liking, Sir BoBo, may well have been inspired by music like Perfume's, rather than *backlashed* from it, even if his music sounds* nothing like Perfume.

*smells?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:04 AM on November 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


pracowity wrote: Do they write songs or play instruments or sing harmonies?

Rockist irrelevance.

huffa wrote: love perfume! also I will take this moment to say that tommy february6 more or less changed my sense of what contemporary pop music (that was not hip-hop) was capable of - she is pretty amazing.

Tommy february6 is just a downright brilliant name for a pop star.

Also, if she changed your sense of what contemporary pop music is capable of (going by those two tracks) you're totally going to have a seizure when you discover Stock, Aitken and Waterman.
posted by jack_mo at 2:02 AM on November 8, 2008


Their "Macaroni" video is pretty charming.
posted by knave at 2:03 AM on November 8, 2008


Sounds way too much like Daft Punk.
posted by mek at 3:02 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well thanks, I guess; all I had seen/heard before was this cute animated clip which, by itself, might have prompted me to purchase a Perfume CD--but now that I've clicked through to the links in this post, I think I'll pass.
posted by Restless Day at 3:06 AM on November 8, 2008


Rockist irrelevance.

Nah. Unless you're joking (?), you have a narrow view of music if regard for musicianship and composition is "rockist" and not also "jazzist" (and many other -ists I don't need to list). People usually have particular talents that they bring to a musical group: they play a particular instrument or type of instrument especially well, or they sing especially well, perhaps with other singers who are good in other ranges or singing parts so that their combined voices are greater than the parts. And unless they are performing traditional music, we usually know something about the composer, who may be part of the group.

So I wondered why there are those three women in Perfume. What does performer A do that differs from what performer B does? What talents does she bring to the group? What is she good at? We know they're all blood type A, which might be convenient if the tour bus crashed, but the links don't say (that I saw) anything about what they can do musically. We know they can dance because we've seen their videos. I would assume that they can sing, but the tags include 'autotune', so I thought that might not be the case. But supposing they can and do sing, autotuned or not, where are the rest of the people? Who is playing what? When they perform in public, are they dancing to studio recordings or is there a band? How much of what they do is live (not prerecorded)?

And if they're getting giant hits, it would be interesting to know who writes them. Who is this person with such a knack for writing music Japanese teenagers enjoy? Maybe that person or group of people is the star of Perfume -- could he or she or they write the same sort of material for three other attractive dancers and get equally big hits, or is there something that these three do better than others?
posted by pracowity at 3:56 AM on November 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


That "Dream Catcher" video made me want a beer or two. I wonder if that was what they intended?

If we're throwing japanese pop names inte this thread, I like Chocolat (here with Miki Furukawa of Supercar).
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:24 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


The person you're looking for is Nakata Yasutaka. You might enjoy Capsule more.
posted by Grangousier at 4:25 AM on November 8, 2008


Capsule: Plastic Girl, Retro Memory, Idol Fancy, Music Controller

I think he just likes the sound that AutoTune makes.
posted by Grangousier at 4:36 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just to throw another recent Japanese single into the mix:
Halcali - Long Kiss Goodbye
posted by Sitegeist at 4:50 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


...could he or she or they write the same sort of material for three other attractive dancers and get equally big hits?

Almost certainly.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:51 AM on November 8, 2008


To clarify what I meant by "the person you're looking for": Nakata Yasutaka is the person who's done the music and arrangements and so forth on the Perfume records. He's also in a duo called Capsule, which is why I linked to them.
posted by Grangousier at 5:07 AM on November 8, 2008


where are the rest of the people? Who is playing what? When they perform in public, are they dancing to studio recordings or is there a band?

I think you may just be missing the wood for the trees here.

Having attending concerts where people are stroking their chins wondering which sounds are live, what type of keyboard is that, what is the ancestry of the manufacturer who produced the bass - I know there are people who indulge in this kind of thing. But in the process you forget to enjoy the experience.
posted by panboi at 5:46 AM on November 8, 2008


ペプシブルーフィルター。
posted by donkeymon at 5:47 AM on November 8, 2008


Also, if she changed your sense of what contemporary pop music is capable of (going by those two tracks) you're totally going to have a seizure when you discover Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

wow, that was the most oblique and hence devestatingly effective rickrolling i've ever experienced.
posted by geos at 5:50 AM on November 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


By the way, I thought that the only people who listened to Perfume were dirty old men who had already collected every Morning Musume trading card, and of course the requisite otaku shut-ins. I guess I'll have to add silly foreigners to my list of demographic stereotypes.
posted by donkeymon at 6:01 AM on November 8, 2008


Maybe this is a question for the green, but are there any worthwhile Japanese musicians over the age of 20?
Don't get me wrong, I really like their music, but all of Japan can't be listening to girls singing with giant lollipops and holding stuffed animals.
posted by czechmate at 6:06 AM on November 8, 2008


...are there any worthwhile Japanese musicians over the age of 20?

Haino Keiji. Very worthwhile.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:11 AM on November 8, 2008


And of course donkeymon, we should bow to your opinion because you have the instant expertise on all things Japanese that comes from being a foreign teacher there. You might not be the first person to have ever done that, you realise? Give us a break. The original poster appears to be a female from Texas. Where does that fit into your stereotypes? If she enjoys the band, who are you to insult her?
posted by Sitegeist at 6:11 AM on November 8, 2008


...the instant expertise on all things Japanese that comes from being a foreign teacher there.

Heh heh!

Where does that fit into your stereotypes? If she enjoys the band, who are you to insult her?

Sitegeist is right, donkeymon: calling people "silly" for their personal taste in music is elitist and, well, dumb.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:20 AM on November 8, 2008


Q: Do they write songs or play instruments or sing harmonies?
A: Rockist irrelevance.


That really did make me laugh out loud.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:23 AM on November 8, 2008


Did I say anything like that? Even if I had never been to Japan, I would still think that people, foreign or otherwise, are silly for listening to Perfume. If it's something to do with Japanophile thing that makes people crave the novelty of Japanese bands, there are plenty of decent Japanese bands who perform at the SXSW festival in Texas every year. Most likely, they wouldn't suit the original poster's taste in music any more than Perfume suits mine. But as for insulting other people's tastes in music, I think that it's been around for as long as there were two bands to compare. There's no more point in debating the merits of insulting other peoples' tastes in music than there is in debating other peoples' tastes in music.
posted by donkeymon at 6:26 AM on November 8, 2008


Max were way hotter than the new older Speed.
posted by chunking express at 6:36 AM on November 8, 2008


Max were way hotter than the new older Speed.

Pffffftttt. Max, Speed, Perfume, Morning Musume... can't none of 'em hold a candle to Pink Lady.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:43 AM on November 8, 2008


Even if I had never been to Japan, I would still think that people, foreign or otherwise, are silly for listening to Perfume.

Based on what exactly? Because you have a blinkered, narrow view of Japanese pop culture?

If it's something to do with Japanophile thing that makes people crave the novelty of Japanese bands, there are plenty of decent Japanese bands who perform at the SXSW festival in Texas every year.

No, it's to do with tunes. And there are indeed plenty of decent Japanese bands that cover a very broad and very wide scope of music. Your argument against a particular type of Japanese music however could be constructed a little better.
posted by panboi at 7:14 AM on November 8, 2008


...are there any worthwhile Japanese musicians over the age of 20?

Mono

musicians are, on the whole, not as snobbish and hierarchical in their thinking as many music fans all too often are.

That's very true. As a drummer I spent years trying to learn ever more complex songs, prog rock drum solos and such, but eventually came full circle and became re-interested in the drumming Dave Grohl did for Nirvana, which you can still see in Foo Fighters material ... it's rarely very challenging but the appeal is in the songwriting, the way that one can strip away all the other layers of music and still identify the song based on the beat. I've come to think it can be way more difficult to write a simple, original pop song than a technically challenging instrumental number.
posted by mannequito at 7:17 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Japanese technopop" sure sounds a lot like Stock, Aitken and Waterman to me.
posted by Artw at 7:29 AM on November 8, 2008


Just based on the fact that I don't like Perfume. It doesn't have anything to do with my living in Japan, or anyone's views on Japanese pop culture. The only relevance might be that I already have a well-formed negative opinion of Perfume due to having known about them for a while. I was mainly surprised that anyone out side of Japan would have any interest in Perfume at all, without the constant marketing exposure to them that comes form being in Japan.

As for constructing a better argument, I think it's pointless. You like what you like, and I like what I like. That's pretty much the end of it, no matter how eloquently I phrase my rationales. I just can't understand why. Part of it is definitely snobby, I'm sure; but I'm genuinely curious how females from Texas come to like Perfume.
posted by donkeymon at 7:42 AM on November 8, 2008


Being an anime fan who frequents some forums with japanophile fangirls and -boys, I usually feel compelled to troll threads like this and throw in some Japanese bands I find more enjoyable than the J-Rock/J-Pop or Visual Kay stuff. Like Gerogerigegege, Envy or Merzbow.
posted by kolophon at 7:42 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was mainly surprised that anyone out side of Japan would have any interest in Perfume at all

Ah. Well, you see that's sort of what everyone here is pointing to.

Your being surprised ≠ someone else's taste being silly.

Also, quid pro non quo.
posted by humannaire at 8:15 AM on November 8, 2008


...are there any worthwhile Japanese musicians over the age of 20?

Ohno Yuji is nearly 70; he's an awesome Dixieland composer and performer.

Kanno Yoko is in her late 40's. Her music (many, many styles) is wonderful.
posted by Class Goat at 8:17 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


The odd thing with Merzbow is, for me, he's one of those folks that on paper, should be SO far up my alley that I'd have like, 20 copies of that 100 CD box set he put out. But, for some reason, listening to his stuff just leaves me cold; there's no connection there for me, and I don't seem to know why that is -- other than personal taste, I guess. But like, sometimes there's something you can point to -- "I don't like the way this is mixed; I don't like the vocals; I don't like this synth setting; too noisy, not enough melody; too much melody, not enough noise; etc." -- but with Merzbow, I don't really have that. I just listen and go "Huh."

For me, I love Otomo Yoshihide's stuff, though -- his Dreams album is one of my all-time favorites.

And, for other Japanese music, I would gladly take a bullet for POLYSICS, who are king hell ass AMAZING. Live especially, but on record too. So good. Y'all owe it to yourselves to see them live. (And they're MUCH more poppy/rocky than Otomo/Merzbow/Gerogerigege. (Can't speak for Envy, as I'd not actually heard of them before!)

Um, to get this back on thread, I do like a lot of Japanese Pop, too -- though I can't listen to it exclusively; the fun thing for it for me is that it's often SO poppy it goes back around to being non-poppy again. I think this also explains my similar love of Aqua.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 8:46 AM on November 8, 2008


POLYSICS is indeed worth checking out. And I'm no expert, but this is my favorite band to ever come out of Japan.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:04 AM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for pointing out Otomo Yoshihide. There's really some cool stuff on youtube, I'll have to check this out later.
Interesting observation about Merzbow. I also have this problem with some noise artists. They don't really tuch me on an emotional level, but I still think they are mostly worth listening to anyway.
Mezbow is more interesting in his collaborations, with Boris for example, another of my favourites.

Polysics are fun, but this electro-punk style is so prevalent and over-played here in Berlin that I can't really enjoy it anymore.
posted by kolophon at 10:06 AM on November 8, 2008


Interesting, I was aware of Nakata Yasutaka mostly through his remix work, such as for Ram Rider or Clazziquai.
posted by needled at 10:44 AM on November 8, 2008


Since someone mentioned The Blue Hearts, I can also highly recommend the movie Linda, Linda, Linda, where a group of high school girls cover The Blue Hearts' song of the same name. It is awesome!
posted by snofoam at 11:10 AM on November 8, 2008


...musicians are, on the whole, not as snobbish and hierarchical in their thinking as many music fans all too often are.

I disagree with that notion. Musicians can at points be even more elitist than your most snobbish musical fan. In fact, some musicians are so snobbish and hierarchical in their thinking that they discount an entire SET of genres without even giving them the slightest hope. I fall under that category too. I judge and am elitist with music way too often, so now I have retreated into just stating that in general I do not enjoy that style of music, but if there is a good band that you think I might like by all means introduce me to it.


... it's rarely very challenging but the appeal is in the songwriting, the way that one can strip away all the other layers of music and still identify the song based on the beat. I've come to think it can be way more difficult to write a simple, original pop song than a technically challenging instrumental number.

Simple songs, when well-constructed, are amazing. There is merit to be had in a simple, original song (even pop) if the melody is well-made. In fact, some of the most heralded classical music pieces are great because of their simple, short melodies that form the basic building block of the whole piece. Beethoven's fifth being a prime example of a simple short memorable building block. However, I disagree that that it is more technically challenging. Building a symphony with full movements and all from that stripped away layer is an awe-inspiring thing. I'm using symphonies and classical music as my basis, but it can be extrapolated to all forms either way.
posted by lizarrd at 11:37 AM on November 8, 2008


wow, that was the most oblique and hence devestatingly effective rickrolling i've ever experienced.

I'd Rather Jack.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:39 AM on November 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


pracowity: "Rockist irrelevance.

Nah. Unless you're joking (?)
"

Joking mostly, and I do love plenty of music on the basis of musicianship and compositional skill, but from your first comment, I just thought you were missing the point of pop in a way that some (silly) people would dismiss as 'rockist'. Of course you're right that it's always interesting to find out who's writing and producing for a pop artist, whether it's Joe Meek behind John Leyton, Goffin & King behind Little Eva, SAW behind Kylie, or the Cheiron Studios gang behind Britney et al.

geos: "wow, that was the most oblique and hence devestatingly effective rickrolling i've ever experienced."

No! I've never Rickrolled, duckrolled, or done any other kind of -roll! I really meant it! SAW were a fascinating phenomenon, and I really like a lot of the music they made (and not in a raised eyebrow kind of a way: they made silly, fun pop records by nicking the good bits from Northern Soul and Hi NRG with a Linn Drum and some bog standard synths, with none of the sickly sheen this J-Pop gubbins tends to have.)

PeterMcDermott: I'd Rather Jack. "

Heh, when I was 12, I was sharking after this girl from the year above, and so was a friend of mine. She settled the matter by requesting I'd Rather Jack at the school disco. (And it's a great example of why I like SAW, too - getting to number one in the 80s with a record slagging off the recording industry and the radio stations is just a brilliant piss-take, especially because it was a bunch of middle-aged men bitter about their lack of acceptance channeling teen frustration.)
posted by jack_mo at 12:57 PM on November 8, 2008


People, RELAX! It's Pop-Music. The rules don't apply. Also it comes from Japan, where they seem to churn out overproduced "artists" like they're growing on trees.

Besides I think I figured out "Dream Fighter", it's about one armed dancing!
posted by P.o.B. at 1:39 PM on November 8, 2008


House music had broken in some of the clubs at that time -- The State in Liverpool, The Hacienda in Manchester, etc. but it still hadn't made it through to the mainstream. Instead, you had Paul Weller covering Joe Smooth's Promised Land, and the Pet Shop Boys covering Stirling Void's It's Alright, but neither of them seemed anything like as joyfully club-addled as I'd Rather Jack.

We used to come rolling in after the clubs closed, out of our skull on £20 tablets and turn on The Hitman and Her, and while the clubs were always really cheesy, but Waterman'd play a peculiar mix of awesomeness and SAW cheese and I just loved it all.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:43 PM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


What an interesting discussion. Personally, I like Perfume OK, but the way I know about them is because I have a very close friend who lives in Tokyo and he is obsessed with them. I posted this mainly because I was shocked that this was the first #1 for this type of music... seems like there's a lot of it out there.

I also think there are a lot of Yellow Magic Orchestra fans here on MeFi and was surprised at them being classified as the same type of music as Perfume.

I mean, I think of techno and I think Underground Resistance. I would imagine "Technopop" to be Kylie Minogue or something similar. Just the differences in sound and the difficulty in defining a genre to everyone's satisfaction based on personal taste fascinates me, really.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:45 PM on November 8, 2008


I don't really get the significance of this song? I mean what do you mean its the only 'Technopop No.1 since YMO?

its not really that 'techno-y' its more just fast electroinic pop with really heavily vocoded/autotuned vocals.. ie like Britney Spears or something with more Auto-Tune
posted by mary8nne at 5:46 AM on November 10, 2008


Mary8nne: I mean that it's literally listed as being the first techno single to debut at #1 (their album did, too) on the official Japanese sales charts since the charts began. If you read the two citations I used (one is translated from Japanese) you'll see that's how it's listed in the Japanese press. I didn't arbitrarily assign the genre, nor did I champion them editorially as a group.

Genre wars, while always interesting to me, don't really apply here, because this is what Japan considers to be "techno". I will agree with you that in my mind it's not really techno, either. YMO got to #2, which was the highest position a techno song had ever gotten in Japan. Both of us have that exact same feeling: huh? Really? Techno? Isn't this "pop"? But to the Japanese, no, this IS techno.

That thinking and that information is pretty much the exact reason I posted this... I also think there's a ton of music out there that sounds like this and was shocked that it took this long for something that sounds this way to hit #1 there. I am NOT surprised it took three cute girls dancing that are in the 18-20 demographic to get there, though!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:23 AM on November 10, 2008


Having attending concerts where people are stroking their chins wondering which sounds are live, what type of keyboard is that, what is the ancestry of the manufacturer who produced the bass - I know there are people who indulge in this kind of thing. But in the process you forget to enjoy the experience.

Well, perhaps they are finding equal enjoyment in a different experience than you are? Nothing gets my goat like pompous critics trying to narrowly define a specific way to consume media as the correct one. previously
posted by thedaniel at 11:13 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


P.o.B. writes 'People, RELAX! It's Pop-Music.'

Pop music is serious business.
posted by jack_mo at 4:17 AM on November 11, 2008


Ah, fuck it. I'ma do what they played in the clubs vs. what they played on the radio, when they started to play the songs we know.

Stirling Void vs Pet Shop Boys
Joe Smooth vs Paul Weller

No golden oldies, Rolling Stones,
We don't want them back,
I'd rather jack.
Than Fleetwood Mac
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:45 PM on November 13, 2008


Ah, Promised Land. I expect I'll hear that gem from Roy Davis, Jr. this Saturday! It's like the gospel theme of house heads worldwide, no? I honestly wasn't even aware that Style Council covered it. Thanks for that.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:55 PM on November 13, 2008


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