Perturbator, James Kent, has been operating in the genre of electronic music called “Synthwave,” since 2012. Along with Lazerhawk, who is slated to release his follow-up to Skull and Shark this year, Perturbator has been on my list as one of the most enjoyable listening experiences in modern music. This music operates in a sleek, stylized, retro-futuristic world that delves into technological uprisings, the dark side of city nightlife, and driving fast cars at night in the rain, whether rebelliously alone or accompanied by an insatiable pickup, the stories unravel through a web of crystalline tones that inhabit a part of your memory soaked in nostalgia.
Ray-Bans, leather jackets, and high tops fill smokey pool halls where ruffians await to have pool sticks broken over there backs in drunken brawls over territory. Sinister meetings between high profile, possibly scarred or disfigured, villains in empty warehouses by the docks are being watched by masked vigilantes who are fed up with the ever-growing sickness of their city and have taken matters into their own hands. The cops are corrupt and big business deals in the types of illegal activities that are not to be mentioned in good company. Meanwhile, in a factory on the outskirts of the city, a mad scientist has completed his life’s work of creating artificial intelligence, and while he has dreams of bringing peace and stability to an insecure populous, his creation has determined that the infesting human race can only be remedied by means of eradication. These are just a few of the themes and visuals brought about by the dense layers of electronic bliss. They are not the actual story line accompanying the album though, there is a companion comic that chronicles the uprising of robots in a place called Neo Tokyo.
“Neo Tokyo,” the opening track, blasts the listener in the middle of this world with a hard hitting beat, swirling with synthetic washes. “Weapons For Children,” and “Death Squad,” both succeed with the help of Carpenter-esque synth sounds that float above the songs with incredible deft and catchiness. “Femme Fatale,” slows things down with a smooth, meandering saxophone solo that lulls you comfortably into a state of optimistic complacency. The albums two vocal performances, “Venger (Feat. Greta Link),” and “Sentient (Feat. Hayley Stewart),” are both exceptionally catchy and fit the overall atmosphere of the album. “Disco Inferno,” “She Moves Like A Knife,” “Diabolus Ex Machina,” and “The Cult Of 2112,” are all great purveyors of pummeling, beat-driven synthwave, with “She Moves Like A Knife,” hosting moments that remind so fondly of M83’s self-titled debut and “Diabolus..” sounding like it could have come from a collaboration between Shining(NOR) and Nine Inch Nails. This music is not far from the music that M83 used to make, and is a reminder of how upsetting and unfortunate Junk is. “Souls At Zero,” is a slow burner that bubbles into a mix of distorted guitars, walls of synths, and robotic vocalizations that sing adrift in the storm. The eponymous and subsequently closing track on the album goes through varying stages of building, cresting, contemplation, and a bursting soar that carries the listener high above, and away, from the city itself.
The Uncanny Valley is a spectacular album and delivers and exceeds all hopes, dreams, and promises. It is by far one of the most entertaining albums of the year, as well as being one of the most beautiful, in melody and construction. Critics may challenge the merit of this genre, but they would be sorely mistaken. As long as James Kent is producing music of this quality, caliber, and level of intricacy, there is no argument strong enough to stand against it.