NPR logo Viking's Choice: Perturbator, 'Neo Tokyo'

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Viking's Choice: Perturbator, 'Neo Tokyo'

Perturbator. David Fitt/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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David Fitt/Courtesy of the artist


David Fitt/Courtesy of the artist

As we approach the post-2000s future we'd originally imagined for ourselves in pop culture — hoverboards, city-obliterating smog, artificial intelligence, Martian exploration — gatekeepers and storytellers give these once-radical predictions continued life beyond current reality. In Perturbator, James Kent's retro-futurism is violent and surreal, but fully inhabited in his barrage of synths, which help conjure a dark urban future that's as sleek as a lightcycle and as menacing as a machine-gun arm. He says his latest album, The Uncanny Valley, was inspired by the '70s Italian horror film Suspira and the Japanese manga/anime classics Ghost In The Shell and Akira.


Named for the dystopian city in Akira, "Neo Tokyo" opens the album in typical Perturbator fashion: Heavy cyberpunk synths deliver savage four-on-the-floors with soaring Gothic melodies. This is where Kent excels, for sure, but here, his sense of texture and composition gives more weight to the finer details. Crank the bass and there's something truly disorienting about those subs, which in lesser hands might just be noise. After a glitching break, a tonal shift occurs that breaks up the darkness for just the briefest moment before giving way to cacophonous strings. Kent's melody is truly woven into "Neo Tokyo" in a way he hasn't attempted before, showing the contrast of its shimmering beauty against an industrial wasteland.

The Uncanny Valley comes out May 6 on Blood Music.