How do you leave behind a scene you helped popularize? How can you move beyond something you defined for an entire generation? Those are the questions French electronic artist Perturbator (aka James Kent) had to figure out when making his magnum opus. Lustful Sacraments is a rousing success not because it ignores what has made Perturbator the pinnacle of dark synthwave (the mix of French house and 80s neon-drenched nostalgia), but because it honors the past and transcends simple genre labels to deliver his best record yet. It’s a pivot, not a total departure.
That said, I marvel at how Lustful Sacraments feels like a total departure from both The Uncanny Valley and New Model styles while also utilizing some of the same musical ingredients. Perturbator’s signature – for lack of a better word – throbbing bass riffs are better than ever. Songs like “Death of a Soul” and “Secret Devotion” are glorious industrial goth jams, timeless in sound and as emotional as any goth coming out of the 80s. That gets to where the pivot from neon-soaked nostalgia comes from. While I always viewed Perturbator’s heavy aspects through a Justice (the band) and 80s metal, I missed the most obvious influence – industrial. If you think of industrial as the key flavor for Perturbator, you’ll savor every bite of Lustful Sacraments.
Truly, this is a dark, grimy record devoid of much of the vibrancy of Kent’s past work, but it’s certainly not lacking in color. Instead, the bedrock of “industrial + 80s” has gone from 80s equaling John Carpenter to now layering in goth and post-punk influences. The patented machine-like tones and textures are still here in spades, but there’s much more of an organic feel to the compositions and sound of Lustful Sacraments. We’ve gone from Perturbator writing songs meant to score a dark and dingy retro action flick to a record that sounds like a goth dancefloor scene laced with acid. This is trippy, glorious stuff here.
So that’s where we are with Perturbator, an artist who refuses to be confined by artificial genre limits or labels. If you’re worried that Lustful Sacraments will be a letdown compared to The Uncanny Valley, go in with an open mind, and you’ll be rewarded with some of the heaviest, most haunting electronic music of the year.
Order the album at this location.