As dark as it is danceable, Perturbator’s latest is another immersive desperate yet delightful struggle through a nightmarish vision of the future
Over the last few years there has been something of a revival in the interest of 1980s culture and style. Certainly this affinity for the bygone era, often by people who were never alive during the period, isn’t totally new but in recent times it seems to have taken on an even more revered status. There’s a generation of artists in film, video games, music, and more, all now seeking to recapture the very essence of the era. Perhaps Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 motion picture Drive along with its soundtrack are most responsible for taking this obscure subculture and turning it into a more widespread but by no means entirely mainstream phenomenon.
It’s against this backdrop that James ‘Perturbator’ Kent emerged, his brand of dark retrofuturistic electro a fundamental pillar of the genre and one which undeservedly often goes overlooked in favour of more well known artists working in a similar ballpark, such as Kavinsky. With Dangerous Days, his third full album release, Perturbator continues to assert his dominance and demonstrate on apt understanding as to exactly what his audience has loved about his music in the past and will surely continue to do so long into the grim future.
Dangerous Days opens with what has become a trademark of the Parisian’s LPs. ‘Welcome Back’, like the first track on 2012’s excellent I Am the Night, serves as a brief mood setter and calm before the storm, seamlessly shifting into ‘Perturbator’s Theme’. It’s an album rich in the artist’s hallmark signature sound, one that is perhaps best described as a Vangelis meets Carpenter hybrid dark synth, something that blends the sci-fi and tingly slasher flick inspired ambiance with an equally foreboding yet much faster and more layered musical tone . These particular transitions gives a good overview of the type of the momentum to expect from the rest of album, with regular switches between slower atmospheric pieces like ‘War Against Machines’ and ‘Hard Wired’ to utterly frantic primal power surges like ‘Future Club’ and ‘Humans are Such Easy Prey’.
Often the border between the two broad track types is impressively blended, the twelve minute title track closer surely no better example. At an hour and eight minutes long, this is a fairly lengthy listen but one that never feels like it’s dragging its heels, even during the brief moments of respite. It rises and dips in intensity at just the right moments resulting in a transportive album, Perturbator’s vividly realised rainy, neon tinted cyber hell a deeply engrossing place.
The glorious pixel laden music video for ‘She is Young, She is Beautiful, She is Next’, one of the album’s strongest tracks
There’s healthy dose of guests appearances throughout the album from the likes of Isabella Goloversic, Dead Astronauts, and Carpenter Brut. Each of these tracks integrate appropriate outside influences while still retaining the quintessential Perturbator sound; they aren’t present simply for sake of it but instead bring very tangible contributions that ultimately make the album a stronger and more varied whole, very much like previous collaborations throughout his discography.
Perturbator’s album artwork has always featured buxom, attractive women usually wearing very little. If it comes across as sleazy it’s because that’s the explicit intention; the body’s dehumanised demotion to commodity and its consequential disposable nature are very much thematically relevant to both the yarn Perturbator attempts to weave and the cyberpunk cannon he lovingly borrows from. It’s also very much a throwback to an era where sexuality was perhaps more willingly and openly exploited in artistic mediums in attempts at pulpy marketing.
Whether or not Perturbator’s use of these elements is part of a wider cyclical problem in that it’s reinforcing that it’s acceptable to indulge in these aspects even with a great sense of self awareness is another question entirely; yet for better or for worse, it’s hard imagine that such a wildly evocative atmosphere could be evoked without them, given their seeming inherently necessary presence in the make up of the ultra specific nature of what he is aiming to capture.
Dangerous Days doesn’t feature any real surprises and a result, doesn’t mark a change to the formula. This isn’t a criticism by any means; as a musician early on in his career, Perturbator isn’t in need of reinvention, at least not yet. There’s also the problem that massive experimentation within the genre might not be possible without wandering too far away from what makes it so enthralling in the first place. Regardless, Dangerous Days is another top tier release from a giant of the genre, rounding out a trio of stellar albums.
As dark as it is danceable, Perturbator’s latest is another immersive desperate yet delightful struggle through a nightmarish vision of the future.
Dangerous Days is available to stream and purchase on Perturbator’s Bandcamp page.