PARRALOX – Electric Nights

Only a limousine can take you there…

Melbourne-based outfit Parralox need little introduction. Founder-member John von Ahlen’s work ethic alone serves as an inspiration for the heights other artists can reach, but at the same time the electronic outfit continue to produce Pop with a capital ‘P’.

Johanna Gervin once again demonstrates that she’s one of the finest voices in the world of electropop with her vital vocals on ‘Electric Nights’. It’s a euphoric floor-stomper crafted in the style that only Parralox can pull off. ‘Electric Nights’ also comes with a suitably dynamic video packed with visual delights. It’s an explosion of primary colours and effects that lends the whole affair a dayglo sheen.

Back in June, John von Ahlen discussed the track ahead of its release in an exclusive interview with The Electricity Club: “The next single for Parralox is ‘Electric Nights’ feat Johanna, and it should have been released at the start of 2017. We have all the remixes ready, all the artwork is done. The only thing holding up the release is the film clip. We shot the film clip last year at the same time we did the photo shoot at Nik Pate’s studio.” After spending some time editing the video, ‘Electric Nights’ was finally ready to be let loose on the world this month.

BUY NOW

The origin of ‘Electric Nights’ actually dates back to 2002, back when Roxy was part of the Parralox line-up (she also co-wrote the song). The tune was submitted to the Australian Independent Music Awards – and apparently won Best Dance song in 2003, but plans to release it seemed to get delayed due to Parralox’s hectic schedule.

The song has been redefined for 2017 – and there’s also a special bundle version available featuring 3 bonus CDs. As a result, ‘Electric Nights’ comes armed with an arsenal of remixes from a wealth of electropop’s finest talents. This includes the likes of Pete Hammond, who’s worked his magic for artists such as Kylie Minogue, Bananarama and Dead Or Alive (and who worked his magic on ‘Sharper Than A Knife’ previously). Tobias Bernstrup and Will Alonso also feature and The People Theatre’s Cable Remix gives the track a thumping EDM workover.

There’s also a selection of additional tracks which have their own appeal. ‘Artificial’ channels Giorgio Moroder while von Ahlen demonstrates that he’s also got some decent vocal chops on the cyberpunk delights of ’I Hear Voices’, which also has a nice line in vocoder elements.

Among the bonus CDs is a dedicated Will Alonso remix CD. This features some classic Parralox tunes, including ‘Aeronaut’, ‘Crying On The Dancefloor’ and the iconic ‘Sharper Than A Knife’.

Also included is The OXY Mashup which features remixes from OXY (aka Breezesquad) from Japan. The results are some sterling combinations of Parralox alongside some Japanese tunes. One of the standout moments is ‘Moonwalkin’ Disco’, which combines Parralox’s ‘Moonwalking’ with Japanese technopop outfit Perfume’s ‘One Room Disco’.

Dedicated to cult film director John Carpenter, ‘Electric Nights’ arrives during a typically busy period for the Australian electropop gang. Their continuing series of unique cover versions reaches the next chapter with the release of Holiday ’17. Plus, Parralox have their sights set on a new studio album for 2018 titled Genesis.


‘Electric Nights’ is out now on Subterrane Records.

www.parralox.com
https://parralox.bandcamp.com
https://soundcloud.com/parralox
https://www.facebook.com/parralox
https://twitter.com/parralox

http://www.conzoomrecords.com


PERFUME LEVEL3

Japanese electronic outfit PERFUME have managed to achieve domestic success with a series of sharp tunes founded on the legacy of Technopop. Now the trio are looking further afield to carve out a global path as they wave the flag for J-Pop…

LEVEL3 is Perfume’s 4th studio album (and their first on the Universal Music Japan label) following on from 2011’s JPN release. Expectations have been high for LEVEL3, which made it all the more surprising that initial web commentary on the album revolved around the fact that Kashiyuka had changed her hairstyle for the album sleeve. Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, the question being asked was whether or not LEVEL3 can meet the high standards that Perfume and producer/writer Yasutaka Nakata have set for themselves.

Opening track ‘Enter The Sphere’ will be instantly recognisable as the background music originally used for Perfume’s global website. Here it’s been beefed up with vocals and expanded into a full tune – and a powerful one at that. This is a track that could have seamlessly appeared on a Capsule release with its percussive rhythms and crunchy synths. It serves as a perfect intro to the album and demonstrates Nakata at the top of his skills.

If there’s a constant in the world of pop music, then it’s the remix. It’s become something of a tradition for Perfume albums to incorporate remixed versions of their single releases. Where a track could previously be tweaked to enhance its own strengths (see ‘Laser Beam’), LEVEL3 tends to favour restructuring large elements of the original song with mixed results.

So ‘Spring of Life’, which originally kicked straight off with its trademark vocal intro, opts for a lengthier intro on the album mix which builds into an ominous bass synth rhythm. As remixes go, it’s a serviceable number that provides some surprises and yet still manages to keep the zip of the original. Meanwhile, Perfume’s 23rd single release ‘Magic of Love’ survives more or less intact on LEVEL3, albeit with some additional electronic melodic overlays and effects.

‘Clockwork’ unveils the first new tune proper on LEVEL3 and it’s a slow burner of pop perfection. ‘1mm’, which was issued in September as a digital release to promote the album, opens with a captivating tumbling percussion that brings to mind the likes of ‘I Still Love U’ from their 2009 album Triangle. As a song, ‘1mm’ offers up a densely layered selection of reedy melodies and traditional harmonic vocal trills.

‘Mirai no Museum’ was originally written as the theme song to the animated movie, Doraemon: Nobita no Himitsu Dōgu Museum. It’s also the single release that attracted derision from some quarters of the blogosphere. It’s certainly a switch from what’s regarded as the traditional Perfume sound and is more closely aligned with a traditional idol pop sound which, critics may have forgotten, is precisely the type of music that Perfume originally started out with. Also, it’s a tune for a cartoon about a cat so it’s unclear what the critics were expecting here, possibly the second coming of Yellow Magic Orchestra or something.

The real error here is ‘Mirai no Museum’ being included on LEVEL3 because it’s a complete gear change from the rest of the material on the album. A shrewder decision would have been the inclusion of the top notch B-Side track ‘Hurly Burly’.

If there’s a point at which LEVEL3 really comes off the rails however, it’s ‘Party Maker’. The longest track on the album (it clocks in at over 7 minutes), this number starts off in good form but then seems to veer horribly off into a by-the-numbers thumping club mix before rescuing itself, briefly, at the midway point.

‘Party Maker’ had originally seen life as the music for a cm for Chocola BB drinks and the brief powerful pop16-second segment used there is what we were all expecting to hear on LEVEL3, expanded into a satisfying 3 or 4min version. It’s not difficult to conclude that ‘Party Maker’ probably was originally constructed in such a fashion, but the nature of LEVEL3 to mix and rearrange everything means that the tune for this song is frustratingly obscured here.

Taking the pace down a bit, ‘Furikaeru to iru yo’ offers up a more restrained Perfume number that’s enhanced by a subtle use of sub-bass effects. Meanwhile, ‘Point’ delivers a euphoric Technopop number whose bright and airy pop moments and clipped melodies showcase a track that originally began life as simply a B-Side number to ‘Spending All My Time’.

‘Daijobanai’ gives us a fast choppy tune with percussive fills. It’s yet another Perfume gem that was previously a little lost as a B-Side track (and for ‘Mirai No Museum’ no less, which didn’t please hardcore Perfume fans).

BUY NOW

If there’s one particular standout moment on the album it’s the inclusion of ‘Handy Man’. It’s another of Perfume’s finer B-Side tracks – this time for ‘Magic of Love’ which, we would argue, is far superior to it’s A-Side equivalent. ‘Handy Man’ has a relentless driving rhythm to it guaranteed to get the feet tapping. Attendees at Perfume’s UK debut might recognise this track in its instrumental form as it formed the intermission music at the halfway point of the gig.

Into the final third of the album we get ‘Sleeping Beauty’, Nakata here appears to be veering back into a more loose form of song construction. More of the reedy melodies that were evident on tracks like 1mm, but with a compelling arpeggio driving the song along. The vocal elements are very subtle (essentially just a breathy rendition of the song title) and give a dreamlike element to the track.

‘Spending All My Time’, here curiously relegated to the last but one track on the album is another Perfume number that upset elements of the blogosphere due to its use of English lyrics (and the sheer audacity that Perfume should actually embark on their plans of seeking global success). Here, the album mix version of the single starts off well but unwisely strays back into the clubby morass that bogs down ‘Party Maker’. The insistent melody of the original was an adequate club-friendly tune and it seems bizarre to want to deconstruct the song in pursuit of a better dance tune that never quite arrives, although rendered in a live setting reworking the song still curiously remains an inspired gesture.

Lastly, ‘Dream Land’ presents a nice album closer with its washes of sound, glissando effects and charming music box rhythm.

LEVEL3 is an adequate enough Perfume album that’s not going to disappoint the fans, but it does feel at times like it’s just falling below the expected standards. Some revisions on the track listing (providing room for the likes of ‘Hurly Burly’ and new release ‘Sweet Refrain’ for instance) would have resulted in a much stronger album release in J-Pop Go’s opinion.

There’s clearly a scheme here to reinvent the trio as a much more dance-orientated outfit, which is a worthy enough goal but retro-fitting existing Perfume songs may not be the best way forward. There’s clearly room for both a Perfume remix album and a standalone album of pure Perfume songs and we can’t help but feel that this would have been a much shrewder path to take with LEVEL3.


www.perfume-global.com
www.facebook.com/Perfume.global
www.twitter.com/perfume_um
www.youtube.com/perfume

LEVEL3 is released 28th October 2013 in the UK via Wrasse Records.
Available via:
iTunes: LEVEL3 (digital release)
Amazon: LEVEL3 (CD release)

Text by Paul Browne
28th October 2013
This article originally appeared on the J-Pop Go site.

PERFUME Live in London

There was a point not that long ago where the idea of an outfit such as PERFUME performing in the UK would have seemed absurd. Following on from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s performance earlier this year, however, it’s clear that times are changing.


When tickets were first announced for the London leg of the Perfume WORLD TOUR 2nd, they sold out almost immediately, prompting a move from the O2 Islington (capacity 800) to the larger O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire (capacity 2,000).

It was a surprisingly sunny, hot day in London. Eager fans had begun queuing from early morning at the venue and it was clear from their outfits (and Perfume fan club shirts) that the hardcore element were out in force. In fact there were several Perfume lookalike outfits, including Fragrance – a tribute act who had flown in from Perfume’s original home of Hiroshima especially for the concert.

By the time everyone had finally made it into the venue in the early evening, there was a palpable atmosphere of enthusiasm. With the house lights lowered, there was a huge roar of anticipation from an excited audience.

Making full use of the video projections on their dresses, Perfume recreated their Cannes performance featuring the remixed ‘Spending All My Time’. It served as the perfect intro and the song was given much more impact, enhanced by the superb projections both on the dresses and on the screen. There were times when you couldn’t be quite sure what you were watching as the projections would randomly break up the profiles of the girls on the darkened stage.

Then it was straight into the harmonic melodies of ‘Magic Of Love’, Perfume’s most recent release, and a performance in which the audience could finally see the girls more clearly with much cheering in response. But it was the Technopop treats of Laser Beam that really set everyone off. As one of Perfume’s most well known numbers, it transferred seamlessly into a live setting. The criss-crossing lasers creating a dazzling mesh of light that suggested the stage was far larger that it actually was.

Keeping the fans happy early, ‘Polyrhythm’ followed next, prompting an enormous reaction from the crowd. Then it was time for a break as the girls brought the house lights up for an MC segment. This allowed Aa-chan, Kashiyuka and Nocchi to introduce themselves properly – and included a point where Nocchi grabbed a towel stating “Too hot – Sweat girl!” Then it was time for an impromptu Japanese lesson as the girls asked if everyone used Facebook – and then taught everyone the Japanese version of Facebook’s ‘like’, which is ii ne.

Keep the conversation UK-focused, the chat then moved onto food and the traditional British dish of Fish & Chips which, apparently, is much tastier than the Japanese equivalent. This also prompted the girls to induce a little rivalry by declaring the stalls crowd to be “CHIPS!” and the upper balconies to be “FISH!”, insisting each section call out their assigned name when prompted.

After all those fun and games, it was time to jump straight back into the songs with a heavy bass-enhanced ‘Spring Of Life’ followed by an equally percussive rendition of ‘Seventh Heaven’. The latter seems an odd choice for the setlist when the outfit has so many more heavy hitters in their arsenal. Its one that also interestingly appears to have a few Kyary Pamyu Pamyu-style licks in its closing bars. ‘Spice’ follows up with a more stripped-down stage presentation with the girls flawless choreography picked out by simple spotlights.

There’s a brief interlude at this juncture (with video projections and an instrumental version of Handy Man), allowing the girls time to leave the stage and change their outfits. The trio return having swapped out their white dresses for more dazzling outfits with bold triangulated colours. Then it’s straight into a rendition of ‘Daijobanai’ – again another usual choice of song, originally the B-side of their earlier 2013 ‘Mirai no Museum’ single release. It’s a stomper of a song though with its rapid-fire beats perfectly complimented by Perfume’s synchronized movements. That’s followed by the percussive glory that is ‘Electro World’ whose driving beats and crunchy rhythms seem almost custom-built for a live performance.

After that rousing section of the show, it’s time to stop for another MC for the PTA Corner segment of the show. This is a regular feature of standard Perfume gigs and consists of call-outs to sections of the audience. So if you’re a girl, shout out, if you’re wearing glasses, then shout out etc. Then it’s onto a call and response performance of the ‘Hamigaki’ (toothbrushing) song, which did appear to lose much of its impact on a UK audience. This shapes up into what appears to be an aerobics performance as the audience are guided through hand-waving techniques to take part in an upcoming song. It’s a tricky thing to follow and makes you appreciate how complicated the choreography actually is – and we were just trying it with one hand.

To win the audience back over however, the Perfume trio embarked on a brief rendition of Queen classic ‘We Will Rock You’, which got an enthusiastic response with the whole venue clapping in unison.

From there, it was straight into the last section of the concert as the sped-up intro of ‘Fake It’ kicked off. ‘Dream Fighter’ follows, with handy lyrics on the screen for the audience to follow. Then it’s time for the instantly recognizable intro to ‘Chocolate Disco’, one of Perfume’s earlier and yet still consistently popular songs – particularly live as the crowd are encouraged to thrust their hands up at the end of each chorus.

Sadly, it’s then time for the last song, which is the energetic ‘My Color’. This gives the audience the opportunity to practice the hand choreography from earlier, so congratulations if you managed to pull this feat off.

But the crowd is still hungry for more and a frenzied bout of clapping and chanting begins until the girls return to the stage. And now it’s decision time as a list of tunes appears on stage inviting us to vote for the final song. Will it be ‘Nee’, ‘GLITTER’ or ‘Love the World’? The crowd is encouraged to shout the loudest as each track is read out, but to my ears every song is equally welcomed. In the end the girls decide that ‘GLITTER’ has got the biggest response and so our final song of the evening is the bassy beats of this 2011 track. Along the way, the girls encourage once again the “FISH!” and “CHIPS!” segments of the audience leaving everyone on a high. As the girls say their goodbyes at the end, Aa-chan thanks the audience and states that they all “feel the same passion for music”.

Merchandise was available at the venue, although copies of some of the singles and the Love the World CD swiftly sold out – as did the special PTA T-Shirts. Lucky people at the end were able to snap up some of the live DVDs however. Plus, there were plenty of tour shirts and towels to go around at the end.

So what’s the conclusion about Perfume’s historic UK debut? It was certainly a superb performance, albeit not the full-on epic scale visual spectacle that their Japanese concerts consist of (for comparison, Tokyo Dome has a capacity of over 50,000).

Also, Perfume are now at the stage where they’ve released so many songs, that making setlist choices is going to be difficult. Personally, I’d have liked more Triangle-era tunes like ‘One Room Disco’ or ‘Night Flight’, but for the moment we’re going to be wondering on what Perfume’s returns plans are, if any. I suspect that judging by the enthusiastic response of their fans tonight though, this is a foregone conclusion.


Issue 3 of ELECTRONIC SOUND features an interview and article on Perfume. More info: http://electronicsound.co.uk/

www.perfume-global.com
www.facebook.com/Perfume.global
www.twitter.com/perfume_um
www.youtube.com/perfume

Text and Pics by Paul Browne
6th July 2013
This article originally appeared on the J-Pop Go site.