Album review: Perfume - LEVEL3

Album review: Perfume -  LEVEL3 | Album review

For a group with such an unparalleled level of visual consistency, their music hasn't always matched. Game was an album I didn't like at first, but I soon grew to find it amazing. But Triangle and JPN were complete stumbles, saved purely on the charms of the girls themselves and Nakata delivering a couple of stellar physical / promotional singles which were so amazing that you overlooked the shortcomings of the albums. In conjunction with this, Perfume have often come under fire for their sound being placed so firmly in the hands of Nakata with their sound sometimes blurring the lines between what is a song of theirs and a song of Capsules. But LEVEL3 marks the first album of Perfumes which feels as though it's built around the purpose of not just creating another sphere of Perfume's world, but one which has been built on everything they'd encountered and touched upon until now and then some.

LEVEL3 is one of Perfume's most diverse offerings. It is essentially the more refined offering which JPN should have been. The album dips and plucks from different styles and genres in a way that none of Perfume's previous albums have. Constantly to'ing and fro'ing between what you would expect to hear from Perfume and something you thought you'd never hear from them. "Handy man" is unlike anything the girls have done before. But then you have a song like "Spring of life" which is so atypically Perfume and is the most straight shooting pop record the girls have done since "Glitter". LEVEL3 feels like an album which was thought through in retrospect of Perfume's previous releases. Nakata has managed to craft an album which features the best of Game, Triangle and JPN to form what is one of Perfume's most rounded and consistent albums since Game. It does however falter on 3 occasions.

For the newness that Nakata spreads on this album, he does rehash for the song "Sleeping beauty", which is pretty much a LEVEL3 album mix of Game's "Butterfly". From the vibe, to the note progressions to the lack of actual lyrics and vocal input from the girls. It is not a terrible song, but the album would not have been any worse off without it. Given that every other song on the album feels so fresh and difficult to draw comparisons to, "Sleeping beauty" is the short straw.

"Mirai no museum" is a piece of shit which ruins the flow of the album so much that I can not understand why Universal didn't leave it off. I don't give a fuck that the song was an A-side single for some anime about some blue cat with a bell around it's neck,. The song is rubbish. When the label were listening to this album upon submission, somebody should have rang the alarm and had this song removed. It's too sickly sweet and goes against the grain of everything else on the album. LEVEL3 is Perfume's big push into Western markets, so "Mirai no museum" is going to throw casual listeners of the album as they won't know that the song was produced for a kids cartoon. Fans know the back story behind the song and why it sounds the way it does and still fucking hate it. Non Perfume fans will not have any time for this song. Leaving "Hurly burly" off of this album in place of "Mirai no crap" was the biggest mistake made on this album. "Hurly burly" would have fit brilliantly on this album and also made tracks 5 ("1mm"), 6 (What should have been "Hurly burly") and 7 ("Party maker") the holy trinity. At the very least Universal should have replaced "Mirai no rubbish" with "Hurly burly" for the European press of the album.

LEVEL3 see's the return of Nakata's controversial album mixes. These are a prime case of Nakata doing too much. As was the case with JPN, Nakata revises songs which were perfect in their original iterations. As much as I quickly dismissed "Magic of love", that song did not need to be touched and neither did "Spring of life" or "Spending all my time". "Magic of love" doesn't sound any worse or better off. It The ending feels much more conclusive than the video game bonus stage jingle which abruptly ended the single version. But everything else doesn't really add anything to the song. What makes this album mix come off even worse is that Perfume had performed to a mix of "Magic of love" which shits on the single mix AND the album mix, featuring a completely re-worked intro and retaining the melodic shifts of the single mix which many were annoyed got removed for the album mix. Not to mention that the more dance heavy drums only serve to further the arguments as to why "Hurly burly" was not short listed for the album, when the new drum sequencing is identical and could have been mixed straight into it had Nakata wanted to go the continuous play route.

"Spring of life" now opens and ends with the switch which originally occurred  in the middle-8 of the single version. This was and still is the best part of the song. But by sticking it at the start and the end, it weakens the middle-8 completely and dampens the impact because you have already been spoilt with it from the start. What made the middle-8 so brilliant on the single mix was that it was so unexpected and polar from the rest of the song, but now it's the most prominent part of it which dilutes its effect. The album mix of "Spending all my time" is a shortened version of the extended mix which Perfume had performed at their Cannes showcase and also on their World tour 2nd. It's nice to have this mix finally, but it doesn't work as well as a stand alone piece of music without the visuals and the performance to go with it. Personally, I think the single mix is far superior from a purely listening experience. Despite the single mix of "Spending all my time" being wholly repetitive, the Album mix manages to make it even more so. The track 10 placing on the album does it no favours either. After a song like "Sleeping beauty" which features no vocals from the girls, to then have a mix of a song which strips out more of the girls' vocals, it's too much.

The album mixes feel as though they were re-worked and structured solely for Perfume's live performances. Given there has always been mindful synergy between Perfume's music, performances and music videos, this makes sense. But I would rather had the single mixes of the songs on the album, because they felt much more complete and conclusive. Make me cry over the reworked mixes that I hear on the tour. I'll get over it. I'd rather have the album versions be the definitive versions of the songs and none of the album mixes are. If anything, Nakata should have reworked "Mirai no museum" into something decent which fit with the rest of the album. He also should have made a pass at album mixing "Daijobanai", which despite being a great song could have done with some reworking to break up the monotony. The same of which could be said for "Handy man".

On many of the albums tracks it feels as though Nakata is dialling things back, which works wonders. Nanda collection was a cacophony of sounds, with songs featuring melody changes, chord changes, sometimes sounding like 3 songs smashed into one. It showcased a really, bold, fresh and cluster-fuck of sounds from a producer who seemed to have pigeon holed himself with the same ol', same ol'. But by stripping things back he essentially reveals the essence of Perfume's songs and how they completely diverge from those of Pussy Pam. "1mm" features no drastic melodic shift. In fact, the song doesn't really change or switch at all. But it's brilliant because the melody which permeates the song is so solid. There is a definite sense that Nakata didn't want to do the unnecessary with the songs on this album simply because he can. And it's this reason why the album mixes feel so odd to me, because it was just Nakata extending songs for absolutely no reason and going against his work on the other songs.

But Nakata does more right here than he does wrong. LEVEL3 shocked me purely because I wasn't in love with the singles from this era and therefore thought the album as a whole would be weak. I couldn't for the life of me think of how an album would hold together when Nakata was throwing around so many different sounds and seemed to be messing frivolously with Perfume's sound, meanwhile he was delivering a consistent quality of singles for Pussy Pamyu which I much preferred. But when you listen to LEVEL3 as a whole there is an over-arc which binds the songs together. LEVEL3 is the first Perfume album which features songs of a quite distinct genre which falls very cleanly outside of just Pop and electro. "Party maker" and "Spending all my time" are Euro house / Rave cuts. "1mm" is pop, with 80's R&B undertones. "Furikaeru to iru yo" is dub heavy. "Point" is dabbles with drum 'n' bass. "Handy man" is swashed in Turkish and Arabic instrumentations. LEVEL3 feels almost like it is self aware. As though it is the culmination of fans who have made their voices heard around the world and somehow had that transfer into this album. Game and JPN felt very self contained. But LEVEL3 feels like it has been coloured by Perfume's experiences over the past year and a half and as a result their music feels much more tangible. JPN was criticised for not featuring hard hitting club tracks, so Nakata gave bitches "Party maker". A 7 minute Euphoric masterpiece, 4 minutes of which Nakata seems to forget he is producing a song for Perfume and not Capsule. Fans were quick to push "Mirai no museum" and "Magic of love" into the fire for the B-sides, both of which we get here. Fans complained Perfume's voices were too heavily auto tuned, so Nakata strips it away on every track. Nakata often says he doesn't take into account what others say when it comes to his music, but there is a sense of him having done so here. Thankfully so.

This marks Perfume's first album where their vocals aren't completely smothered in auto tune. The girls still sing like anime characters, but they now hit more than 2 notes per song and run through verses and choruses in a different rhythmic pattern than before. The next aural evolution for the group would have to be the vocals. There is a sticking sense with some of the songs on this album (notably "1mm", "Clockwork" and "Daijobanai") that they would have been better had the girls sang with their natural singing voices. Despite Yasutaka being the one who insisted on the girls singing so lifelessly, even he is beginning to let the girls vocals emerge more and arranges the songs in a way which makes their vocals much more prominent. Well, except for "Sreeping booty". Perhaps in 2 albums time we'll get Perfume's natural singing voices on a track. It feels like it's where things could be headed.

LEVEL3 is a solid album from start to finish. It marks one of Perfume's first albums which I liked instantly on a first listen. It is also the Perfume album which I feel has the best album tracks, all of which outshine the singles like hell. The tracklist is also saved in great part due to the inclusion of the B-sides which delivered what the A-sides had failed to. The album feels like a nice evolution from a group that at one point I was wondering could evolve musically. It's great to hear Yasutaka hasn't converged Perfume's sound with Pamyu Pamyu's, which is probably why "Communication" was left off. Fans were quick to throw that song under a Steamroller for sounding too much like a Pussy Pamyu track, which it did. If there is one thing LEVEL3 lacks it's a constant spark. This album is Perfume's most mood evoking, but it peaks and troughs with it's vibes way more than Game did - which upheld a constant energy and maintained it until the very end. Even JPN (for all of its inconsistencies) featured those big electric songs which slapped you in the face. LEVEL3 never really tries to grab you straight away. It instead opts to take you on a ride on each track and have you feel your way around it in the hopes you'll see the eventual greatness within them. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it's a different take on the immediacy of Perfume songs that we're often spoilt with.

LEVEL3 is definitely one of Perfume's best offerings. I waver between which album I think is best between this and Game, and my choice may differ depending on the time of day. Game was a much more straight shooting album and was great because of it. Where-as LEVEL3's feels much more textured and layered. It almost feels like Perfume and Nakata are on a journey to try and find something, which is a nice afterthought for the album and something which the Chrono Trigger-esque "Dream land" also alludes to. They have definitely come a long way together and this album is a major step up from the dusty  and the patchy JPN.

This album features a nice variation of sounds without ever feeling alienating. Feeling familiar without ever sounding samey. It's a solid album with some great songs which feel a little more raw and textured. Not only will LEVEL3 please long term fans, but it will win them a slew of newbies.

Album highlights:
■ Spring of life (Album mix)
■ Clockwork
■ 1mm ★ J's fave
■ Party maker
■ Daijobanai
■ Handy man
■ Dream land

A B-side this album should have included:
■ Hurly burly

I ain't got no time for:
■ Mirai no museum

Reviews: Game | JPN | Spring of life | Spending all my time


  1. While I definitely disagree with you about the Magic of Love and Spring of Life album mixes being subpar, that horrid Spending All My Time album cut made me want to break something. I was waiting for amazingness to happen, but I was instead treated to some weird ass switch after the hook repeated; it just really screwed the song up -_- Oh Nakata... Why must you do us so dirty >_< Other than that like disagreement, I agree with everything you said; I play this album so much while I only play JPN for the intro and the Glitter album mix (which I now like less than the single mix, but still like so very much).

    Another thing; I also really like Mirai no Museum now. Don't ask me why, but I just do XD And no matter what you shady hoes have to say about Communication, I still say that it slays just as hard as an Perfume b-side :P

  2. When it comes to perfume knowledge, I don't bother thinking anymore, I just read RJ's posts.

    excellent review

  3. Well, lemme put my three cents in.

    - I don't get the hate for "Mirai no Museum". It's not as cutesy as people make it out to be. It's certainly better than "COMMUNICATION" or "Toki no Hari", but I do understand that it shouldn't have been placed where it is in the album. And "Hurly Burly" should've definitely made the list.

    - I also don't get liking "Clockwork". Compared to the other songs, it's so forgettable. Maybe it's just me, but there is little depth in that song compared to the other songs. Maybe above "Sleeping Beauty" and "Enter the Sphere", but, to me, it's so bland.

    - Last cent: aside from "Clockwork", I wholeheartedly agreed with your highlights. I'm actually upset that Mr. Nakata didn't add the full Cannes-version of "Spending all my time". It's not like there wasn't room on the damn disc.

    Aside from those gripes, spectacular review ?J. You never (completely) disappoint! :D

  4. In terms of being a cohesive body of work, this is definitely perfume's best album. The problem with previous Perfume albums is that the singles(b-sides included) were good(for the most part), but the album tracks were lackluster. Luckily, since half the albums were comprised of singles, they still made for halfway decent listening experiences. Level 3, as you stated, is the one album where the non single tracks are actually good and not just filler. I agree wth your album highlights, except I actually like sleeping beauty. I know it's like Butterfly 2.0, but I still like it for whatever reason. I know most fans seemed to hate the spending all my time single version, I definitely prefer it over the album mix.

  5. The single version of Spending All My Time completely murders the album mix; idk what Nakata and Perfume's A&R dude at Universal were smoking when they approved that for the album, but it sucks so very badly

  6. Mirai no Museum very slowly and painfully grew on me; Hurly Burly is definitely the superior song, but MnM ain't bad. Also, Communication was my jam for like 2.5 seconds XD

  7. Too me, "Dream Land" sounds like Final Fantasy XIII first music.

  8. It's like a cross between Chrono Trigger's "Corridors of time" ( and Final Fantasy XIII's "Dust to dust" (

  9. I played the album mix once and never touched that shit again. With the projection performance, I love it. As a stand alone song, I have no time for it. I loved the single mix too much for Nakata to just slap 2 minutes of generic house in the middle of it. After Nakata came with "Party maker" there was NO need for him to do "Spending all my time" the same way.

  10. My thing with "Spring of life" isn't that I think the album mix is terrible, but that Nakata didn't need to touch it. At all. What-so-ever. Out of the album mixes I think "Spring of life" is the better of the 3 because he didn't fuck with anything within the song itself, he just added sections to the beginning and end of the single mix. a result the middle 8 doesn't feel as big when it drops at 3 points within the song. At the MOST he could have just extended the middle-8 section. But he didn't need to start and end the song with it, regardless of how hot is sounds. He gave too much of a good thing.

    The album mix of "Magic of love" should have been this > That's all I'mma say on "Magic of love".

    "Hurly burly", I can't think for the life of me why Universal left that shit off. But "Communication", I can. It sounds too much like a Pamyu Pamyu song, which dropped at a time when people were beginning to question Nakata's output for Perfume for the worst. "Mirai no museum" jars the album enough with its kiddie vibe on its own, let's not be talking about giving it a sibling to play with on this LP.

  11. Lol, you were so articulate and clever about song descriptions until "Mirai no museum" is a piece of shit

  12. *Especially* after Party Maker!!

  13. I know this is insanely off topic, but is that *live* vocals I'm hearing from Perfume? On their OWN joint? I NEVER THOUGHT I'D SEE THE DAY!!!!!

    *ahem* You have a point about the album mix of Spring of Life, but I honestly just like hearing the middle 8 (that is the most played track for me off Level 3, along with Party Maker), so him putting it in a few extra times doesn't bother me at all. I liked the intro to the album mix of Magic of Love, but Nakata could have left that bagpipe synth off the chorus; it made it sound way too busy. The ending with the piano was also pretty nice too :3 I do want a studio mix of that version of Magic of Love, though; that intro slays hard.

    As for Mirai no Musuem and Communication, I agree that they needed to be kept *far* away from this album in the same way that Hurly Burly was (still have no idea why we got Point and not that piece of synthesized heaven). I *do* like Communication a lot more than I like Mirai no Museum, though, and it's *definitely* because it sounds like a Pamyu Pamyu song :3 Even though Nakata likes to vocode any kind of personality out of Perfume and Kyary Pamyu P's voices, I happen to like the sound of Perfume's vocals over Pamyu's. Why, idk, but preference is definitely a powerful thing XD

  14. BTW, I'm all for this post being the only one that is tagged under "SNATCHED!"

  15. I don't think it sucks, I just prefer the original... so much that I don't play the album mix at all.

  16. I absolutely don't understand why everyone is so upset about the absence of "Hurly Burly" from this album.
    While I agree that "Mirai no Museum"'s presence is a completely unnecessary addition to the tracklist, "Hurly Burly" is just so lyrically stupid that putting it on the album risks turning it into another JPN with all its overly-commercialised lines (I still can't enjoy Laser Beam or GLITTER for the same reasons).
    How anyone can take a song with a hook like "Juicy juicy sweetie, what's your favorite flavor?" seriously is beyond me.


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