Perfume Credit: Courtesy of Artist

Perfume have been at the top of the Japanese pop scene for more than a decade, so it’s easy to forget that the trio, which formed in Hiroshima in 2000, had been on the verge of quitting after a number of their mid-aughts singles didn’t perform up to the expectations of their record label. But in 2007, they caught a lucky break when they were selected by Japan’s public broadcasting network (NHK) to perform in a high-profile public service announcement for a national recycling campaign. The song from that PSA, “Polyrhythm,” is a catchy but stunningly complicated synth-pop jam that took the group from regional favorites to national icons. And a year after “Polyrhythm” was featured in the Cars 2 soundtrack in 2011, Perfume began kick-starting efforts to appeal to international audiences as well. Since then, they’ve had numerous number one hits in Japan, toured around the world, branded their own clothing, and (of course) released a line of fragrances. This spring they’re touring the States, and the dates include an appearance at Coachella—they’ll be the first J-pop band to ever perform at the west-coast festival. Perfume’s futuristic aesthetic and tendency toward pop experimentation are both partly due to their long-term producer and composer, Yasutaka Nakata. The intense synchronicity of this collaboration has been one of the reasons they’ve excelled above their peers. When Forbes asked Perfume’s Kashiyuka to explain what she meant by describing a song as “very Perfume,” she explained what she sees as the essence of the Perfume aesthetic: “Persistence. Synchronization. It might look mechanical, but there’s a sense of human warmth in what we do.” That’s also a canny appraisal of their appeal: Perfume are known for their heavily processed vocals and inhumanly precise choreography, but the trio excel at finding small moments to express their humanity, such as the slight and subtle variations each member brings to their dancing. The US venues they’ve booked are smaller than the arenas they’re known to play in Japan and elsewhere, so it will be interesting to see how they adapt their notoriously cutting-edge performances, which include elaborate backgrounds and moving platforms. Regardless, this is a rare chance to see one of pop’s most consistently thrilling acts live.   v

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