Do I even have to really explain why I'm jumping up and down in excitement about the release of this album? I feel like August and September have just been this giant buildup waiting for Level3, with each detail about the release only adding to the buildup. Honestly, I'm surprised that I even made it to the release date without completely losing my sanity along the way! I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Perfume's next album before we even knew that they were releasing a next album. Not just because I love Perfume albums, but also because personally, JPN was a huge disappointment. It wasn't a terrible album, but it is in my opinion the weakest Perfume album. There wasn't enough new material on the album, and the new material that was on there wasn't exactly the strongest Perfume music ever released. In the end, JPN left me wanting more, a different album with a different sound to be specific. And so two years went by. Two long years and four singles later, a new album has finally graced the Perfume fandom. Level3, Perfume's fourth studio album, is an album that I have been waiting to review all year. I haven't reviewed a Perfume album since 2011, and I couldn't be more excited to finally review another album, especially with my updated Apple Rating System and further development in my writing skills! So I think the only thing left to do is get this introduction over with and see if Level3 lives up to all the hype I've been building up for it!
1. Enter the Sphere
Opening the album is a piece of music that many of you Perfume fans might be familiar with. Need a refresher? Enter the Sphere is the Global Site Music! It's kind of hilarious to see that an instrumental track from Perfume's global website made it onto the album. Don't get me wrong, it's awesome too because I loved the Global Site Music, but still, it does make me giggle a bit. Partially because I remember a few fans dropping the crazy theory that the Global Site Music was going to be made into a song. And what do you know, it was! Enter the Sphere serves as primarily the opening track, the song that sets the tone for the entire album. And I think it does a pretty damn good job of doing that. Enter the Sphere is an electro-heavy dance song and man, it's just one of those dance songs that makes you feel really cool dancing to it, even if you're the world's shittiest dancer. Definitely a strong opening track that matches with the dance theme of the album.
2. Spring of Life (Album-mix)
With a very smooth transition, Spring of Life (Album-mix) is the first A-side to grace Level3! Now I loved Spring of Life; it was one of my favorite songs of 2012, and it had a freaking awesome PV to go with it. And in my opinion, the album mix of Spring of Life does a great job of enhancing the best parts of the original song without making too many changes to the structure and composition of the song. What's mainly expanded on is that wonderful bridge that made the original Spring of Life such a wonderful song. One of my main complaints about Spring of Life was that bridge was too short; I needed more! And that's what Spring of Life (Album-mix) gave to me! The bridge turns into a prevailing instrumental that runs throughout the whole song, both starting and ending it. Beyond that, much of Spring of Life remains untouched, which is fine with me. I think the changes made to the song are great!
3. Magic of Love (Album-mix)
And following the first A-side featured on Level3 is... the second A-side! Magic of Love, the most recent of Perfume singles, also gets an album mix! Previously on Nia's Wonderland, I talked about how I thought that Magic of Love was a pretty good, if rather typical Perfume song, but I thought it had a really artistically striking, and the song's really grown on me since I first reviewed it. So how does the album-mix hold up? Surprisingly, this was actually my least favorite of the three album mixes on Level3. The musical choices made for Magic of Love (Album-mix) were just a little... odd? I'm mainly talking about the bagpipes. You heard right, there are bagpipes in the instrumental of Magic of Love (Album-mix). They're more noticeable when you listen to Magic of Love (Album-mix) with headphones on. They're just really grating, and don't add to the song. Other than that, most of Magic of Love (Album-mix) mirrors the original.
And so following the nicely done outro from Magic of Love (Album-mix) is the first of the songs on Level3 that have a smoother, less beat-intensive sound. I have to admit I was a little skeptical about how Clockwork would sound based on the preview. It didn't sound bad but compared to a lot of the other song previews, I was a little underwhelmed. I think I was most worried that Clockwork was going to sound similar to Toki no Hari, one of my least favorite tracks of Perfume's previous album, JPN. The full song turned out to be much better than I'd anticipated! Clockwork is one of the new songs that has a much more laid back, almost dreamlike sound, with expertly layered vocals. It's a great song to relax to, but the song doesn't drag either. It's just a very nice, soothing song, with a lulling melody, that really lowers my stress. It's not my favorite new track on Level3, but I still liked it a lot!
Hello again, 1mm! I swear, it feels like just yesterday when 1mm was aired on Perfume Locks! and we got our first information about Level3. Time sure flies, huh? I've already done a full review of 1mm along with the promotional PV which you can read here. I'll just parrot my condensed opinion: I think 1mm is great. And now that I've listened to Level3 in its entirety, I can finally give a verdict on whether 1mm stands well as a promotional track. Does 1mm represent all the other songs on the album, providing a glimpse of the general sound of Levl3? I think it does. 1mm perfectly balances the soothing melodies and catchy dance tunes that made up this album, falling right in the middle. 1mm isn't exactly what I'd call a catchy song, but it does have a really nice tempo. Not too fast or too slow! I said before it reminds me of I Still Love U, only more upbeat. What else can I say? I loved 1mm when it first aired, and as I'm typing this review, I still love it!
6. Mirai no Museum
And then the album comes to a screeching halt with Mirai no Museum. Now something I do need to remind you guys is that I actually didn't mind Mirai no Museum. I mean, it's not a spectacular Perfume song by any means, but I don't think it's anywhere near as horrible as a lot of fans make it out to be. However... I wish it didn't have to be included on this album. It pretty much has to as an A-side, but Mirai no Museum clashes horribly musically with all the other songs on Level3, especially noticeable since it's placed between 1mm and Party Maker. That's kind of like showing up to a dance competition where all the other contestants do these intricate break dancing routines and you do the Cha Cha Slide. Mirai no Museum is very much a children's song, with a very light melody leaning on a more pop and techno side. Maybe on JPN this song would have worked, but on Level3, Mirai no Museum is in my opinion, the weakest track on the album.
7. Party Maker
Luckily, the lackluster Mirai no Museum is followed by one of the most dance-able tracks on the album! My first reaction to learning the track length of Party Maker was, "Holy crap, it's seven minutes!?" From the Chocola BB CM where the song was featured, Party Maker didn't exactly strike mas a 7-minute type of song. In fact, I wasn't actually anticipating Party Maker quite as much as some of the other tracks on the album, because the snippet from the CM didn't really grab me. Fortunately, first impressions can be wonderfully deceiving, and Party Maker's probably one of my favorite tracks on the album. Like... holy crap, this song is good. Party Maker is a heavily instrumental-focused song and my god, is this instrumental well-done. It's all one giant buildup, with one melody seamlessly layered on top of the other. And by the time you reach the end, Party Maker turned into this fantastic, explosive dance track.
8. Furikaeru to Iru Yo
Party Maker is kind of like edge (⊿-mix) in that when you're finished listening to it, you feel like you've just come off a roller coaster. It's exciting, but exhausting. So what better song to play after Party Make than a laid back, reggae-type song? When Perfume mentioned Furikaeru to Iru Yo was inspired by reggae, like with any song inspired by reggae, I was... nervous. Not that reggae's a bad genre of music, it's just... it tends to be poorly executed. However, Furikaeru to Iru Yo actually sounds pretty cool; like I said, it's a very slow song, clocking in at over six minutes. But I can definitely see the reggae Nakata drew from to create this song. It's kind of like Bob Marley reincarnated as three Japanese technopop singers. It might not be as energetic as Party Maker or dreamy as Sleeping Beauty, but Furikaeru to Iru Yo is a great song to kick back and relax too, and a nice breath of air amongst all the dance tracks on Level3.
Ah, Point. I can't think of a better song to continue the laid back sound established in Furikaeru to Iru Yo than Point. It's funny to think that I was so certain that Point was going to be one of the B-sides that didn't make the cut to Level3. I guess I just thought Hurly Burly was so popular and Point was so underused (in fact, it's never even been performed live) that Hurly Burly would be the song to make it to the album. Imagine my surprise when the exact opposite happened! But it was a happy surprise, because I freaking love Point. It was even my favorite song from 2012! Point is such a dreamlike song, the kind of song that simply breezes a long, like a fluffy little cloud floating through the sky. And I think Point fits so well with the other calmer and softer songs on Level3, giving the album a nice balance between intensive dance songs and tranquil songs. And I think Point succeeds as an beautifully serene Perfume song!
Am I okay that this B-side got included on the album and not Hurly Burly? No, I'm not okay! Or should I say.. daijobanai? Seriously though, I am sad that Hurly Burly didn't make the cut, but not as sad as I thought I would be. I guess Point being on Level3 makes up for the lack of Hurly Burly. But anyways, Daijobanai is actually not really one of my favorite B-sides of this era. It's not as poor as Communication, but in comparison to the other B-sides, I don't really think it's that great. I know a lot of people do, but personally, I think it's kind of an overhyped song. My main complaints with Daijobanai are that it's too fast and too repetitive. The song ends before you can even process what you just listened to, because the tempo is faster than the blood rate of someone on crack. I will admit, Daijobanai is a very catchy song and I admit to at least dancing to it every now and then, but it's still not a B-side I can really get into.
11. Handy Man
Good lord, I'm still happy that Handy Man made it to the album. I know everyone else is crying that Hurly Burly didn't but I'm just crying tears of joy that Handy Man made it. This and Point are probably my favorite B-sides of the era. What I really liked a bout Handy Man was that it was such a different sound for Perfume. Handy Man is a very Middle Eastern-sounding song, like something you'd hear in the middle of a Bollywood movie. And it's such a fun song too. Unlike Daijobanai, which was too fast to dance to, Handy Man has this swinging rhythm that makes me want to spin around and dance! I'd really like to see what Perfume's choreography for Handy Man looks like; I hope they perform it during their Dome Tour! That interlude using the instrumental during Perfume's 2nd World Tour was neat too. Overall, I'm just so gosh darn happy Handy Man is one this album; it's a great B-side and such a nice change for Perfume!
12. Sleeping Beauty
I half expected a lyrical rendition of the actual fairy tale with this song. Sadly, that did not happen. Instead, Sleeping Beauty turned out to be a song very void of Perfume vocals. In that respect, Sleeping Beauty really reminds me of Butterfly; both songs are heavily instrumental tracks with minimal and repetitive vocals. What I've learned about Butterfly is that it is like an acquired taste. You have to get through a certain amount of listens before you start to like Butterfly. Or at least that's what I had to do. All I know is that one day I all the sudden started getting into Butterfly, and the song magically became a Perfume song I listened to a lot more. And in the process, I've become much more open to instrumentally heavy songs. So I think that's why I enjoy listening to Sleeping Beauty so much. You can argue it's too repetitive and needs more Perfume vocals, but personally I liked this song. Definitely not a track for everyone though.
13. Spending all my time (Album-mix)
Hello, darkness, my old friend. Oh. I mean... hello, Spending all my time! Fancy seeing you on this album... Eh heh... yeah, you guys all know that I have been rather vocal in my disappointment of Spending all my time. What can I say? I thought it was a dull, repetitive track that had too little variety for it to really stand out to me. However... thesongreallygrewonme.What I liked was the mix used for Perfume's Cannes performance, and luckily, parts of that mix are used for the album mix of Spending all my time! Of course, the moody instrumental opening was cut from this version, but other than that, I have to say Spending all my time really has redeemed itself in my eyes, mainly thanks to this album mix. Spending all my time (Album-mix) adds much more variety in the instrumental and the vocal editing than the original. So it's not as grating to listen to but actually... a really good song. Shut up. Opinions change.
14. Dream Land
And closing Level3 is what has got to be one of my favorite new tracks on the album. And Dream Land is also in my opinion the perfect song to close the album. It's calm so listening to it, you feel like you're emerging out a long, convoluted dream or coming off of a 13 tracks-long roller coaster ride. You know how I've been talking about how this album seems to balance dance tracks with dreamier and calmer tracks? Enter the Sphere opened the album introducing the dance sound; Dream Land closes the album leaving you with the more soothing sound. So both are like book ends on two different extremes. Dream Land is an absolute delight to listen to; from the music box-type opening to the reflective sound effects sprinkled throughout the instrumental to the buildups of energy to even the vocals! What else can I say? Dream Land was an absolutely dream to end and an absolutely dreamy album.
I freaking love this album. I might as well get that out of the way because my god, I really love this album. It's a huge step-up from JPN. In fact, I even think I like Level3 better than ⊿. Sure, the album isn't as good as Game but that's because you can't win against Game. Anyways, Level3 has definitely got to be my favorite album I've reviewed this year. And not just because it's a Perfume album but because it's a legitimately good album that has a great mix of new and old tracks. I remember the girls mentioning that they found Level3 to be a very dance-able album. At the time, I wasn't really sure just how on point they were with that statement, but after having listened to the whole album, I do agree partly with them. Because Level3 has a lot of dance tracks. Enter the Sphere, Spring of Life (Album-mix), Magic of Love (Album-mix), Party Maker, Daijobanai, Handy Man, and Spending all my time (Album-mix) are all songs that anyone can get up and dance to.
However, I also found that Clockwork, 1mm, Furikaeru to Iru Yo, Point, Sleeping Beauty, and Dream Land were tracks that had a much calmer and dreamlike sound. So you have basically two different sounds, and you may find the dissonance to be too jarring for you to think of Level3 as a cohesive album. But for me, I think these two sounds balanced each other in the same way yin and yang do. For every blood-pumping dance track is a soothing track that cools you down. I compared the energy of Level3 to a roller coast with its high and lows, finally coming to a complete stop with Dream Land. The album was sleek and polished, straying toward a much more techno sound than JPN did, which I like. Really the album only has a few pitfalls, particularly Mirai no Museum. But when your weakest song is Mirai no Museum, you're holding up pretty well. Overall though, this album is absolutely worth a listen, especially if you're more a fan of Perfume's dance tracks. I really think that anyone who listens to Perfume can find at least one track to like on Level3. I just happened to find a lot of tracks I liked...
Hence I see it only fit to give Level3 four and half out of five apples. Like I said, the album isn't completely perfect, and how much you like a few tracks will vary with how much you like certain musical styles from Perfume. But for me Level3 is a smooth blend of a variety of sounds from Perfume, creating a polished sound that I've been longing to hear from Perfume for a long time.