First Impressions: Perfume’s “Polyrhythm”

Filed in American Wota 2.0

I never did write enough about Perfume in AmeWota 1.0, but I should have. Perfume created my favorite song and PV of 2006 – “Electro World” – as well as my favorite album, their Complete Best collection. I was blown away by the beautiful packaging, songs, and PVs of Fan Service Sweet, as well as the photobook and concert of Fan Service Bitter. It’s been too long between releases from them, but “Polyrhythm” makes up for it. I remember again just why I love these idols so much.

“Polyrhythm” is an astounding step forward, moving further beyond the cyberpunk posturing of “Linear Motor Girl” and “Electro World” towards a more holistic view of technology. In this video, the whole world is represented as built off the same principles and systems, whether it’s genetic code or star systems or cars or computers.

In keeping with the recycling theme that this song is being used for, there is also a sense of the circle of life – at one point Nocchi is holding an apple, Kashiyuka then watches it split into four as a seed sprouts, and finally A~chan watches the sprout blossom into a small tree.

As a result, this video feels gentler than those before it, bathed in soft colors with no sense of menace, implicit or otherwise. The special effects don’t feel as forced somehow, it’s not clubbing you over the head the way it did before. The song matches this mood: the harmonies are as beautiful as ever, the beat is catchy and danceable, but it’s a more laid-back affair than earlier songs.

I also appreciate the pod / petals with the girls in them as a self-referential nod to “Electro World” and how the girls are woken from hibernation to wreak havoc on their own matrix before returning to sleep. The intention seems more benign here, though I guess in the circle of life anything seems benign since it all leads back to the beginning anyways.

This technophiliac Buddhism is highlighted in the way different kinds of images rotate around the girls as they spin, but is best exemplified when the girls pass an object to each other: egg becomes dinosaur becomes bird becomes hippie VW bus becomes computer chip. The big leap, of course, is between bird and bus (dinosaurs are thought to be the forebears of birds) – but it works here.

That said, there is a wonderful interlude when this system threatens to enter a runaway mode: the chorus starts repeating, becoming more aggressive as if a CD is skipping and tightening up the time it’s skipping. I’m sure there’ll be people who find this useless noise on an otherwise pleasant song, something that spoils the harmony for no good reason. The video works with this, with faster cuts and shots of the girls’ lips, while the rotating iconography itself goes out of whack.

But since I like noise, I actually found it the most enjoyable part of the song. If anything, there is a flash of self-aware intelligence in that interlude, an implicit warning about the dangers of upsetting the system. Or if not the dangers, perhaps the opportunities…? It’s not quite Pussy Galore playing their drum reels backwards, but to me it’s a beautiful dissonance to keep this affair from growing too saccharine.

As for Perfume themselves, they continue to mature beautifully. Watching them develop may not have the same heady thrill as watching the H!P Kids negotiate the terrains of puberty, but the honing of their idol gifts actually leaves me in more awe and wonder.

I used to worry the Perfume girls couldn’t really sing, but an acoustic set I downloaded proved me wrong. They can also dance quite well, though the choreography in this song isn’t very demanding. I don’t care, though – it hits just the right note of kawaii without making the girls look too ridiculous. Some of it does seem a bit silly, but no more so than when you gather teenage girls together on a dance floor – which is basically what they are, right?

My favorite of the trio is still Kashiyuka – there’s something about her look which makes me think of SweetS’ Takewa Haruna, though she doesn’t have Haruna’s edge and careerism. If anything, that gentler aspect is more appealing on her.

Nocchi and A~chan both look fantastic here as well. Nocchi especially – she’s always seemed a bit rough around the edges compared to the other girls, and now it’s translating to a greater maturity on her part.

Perfume may just dominate my memories of 2007 the way they did in 2006. Except this time I’ll be more vocal about the fact.

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2 Responses to “First Impressions: Perfume’s “Polyrhythm””
  1. Garamond says:

    It’s a pretty good PV, but I don’t like the “vocoder” vocals very much.

  2. Justin says:

    I can’t stop listening to it. The ‘CD skipping’ part with the quick cuts is my favorite part, too. Have had it on repeat all day. Think they are going to be a new favorite of mine as well – checking out ‘Electro World’ now.