Perfume’s fifth studio album, “Cosmic Explorer,” starts off with a stunner. “Navigate,” with its intricate electronic atmosphere and inspirational melody, creates the sense that one of Japan’s most innovative groups is on course to discovering new sonic territory. Then, the EDM iceberg hits. The title track, “Flash” and “Baby Face” opt for the kind of EDM influences that can be heard on any track from Apple Music’s U.S. dance charts from over the past few years. However, though the sound may be a bit played out to Western ears, it’s still relatively new to Japanese ones. It’s a shame Perfume is veering away from its trademark electronic intricacies, but the group has been doing that for almost a decade. Still, the inclusion of “Story” is odd, the industrial samples sound more like songwriter-producer Yasutaka Nakata’s more recent experiments with Capsule.
Anthemic choruses aside, there are a few glimmers of the old Perfume on tracks “Tokimeki Lights” and “Next Stage With You” (featuring a bridge that is classic Perfume). There’s also a familiar sweetness on the Shibuya-kei inspired “Hold Your Hand.”
In the end, it would be wrong to critique the group for any missteps as the blame — or credit, depending on your views on EDM — lies squarely on Nakata’s shoulders. As one of Japan’s most innovative producers, maybe the success caused him to lose his muse — or maybe he just found it in Vegas. Oh well, we’ll always have “Game.”