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Perturbator’s Lustful Sacraments: synthwave guru takes a walk on the dark side

Goth hits the dancefloor on the new album from synthwave pioneer James ‘Perturbator’ Kent

Perturbator – Lustful Sacraments
(Image: © Blood Music)

The last time we heard from James ‘Perturbator’ Kent in 2017, synthwave had reached critical mass. What began in the 2000s as bedroom DJs uniting 80s exuberance and vigorous electro beats had exploded into the mainstream, cramming dancefloors and soundtracking blockbusters. So, having helped popularise the genre with the Metroidvania vibrancy of 2012’s I Am The Night and 2014’s Dangerous Days, the Frenchman had grown bored of it. 2016’s The Uncanny Valley and especially 2017’s New Model EP proved darker, heavier, grimier – less nostalgic club night and more seedy underground orgy. 

Lustful Sacraments is another bleak-sounding take on synthwave, albeit drawn more from post-punk gloom than violent beats. Inspired equally by Siouxsie And The Banshees and Las Vegas hedonism, it could soundtrack the party you throw before the day you die: sinful, energetic, plagued with nihilism. 

Intermittently, this is a swaggering EDM bender. Excess invigorates with its fast-paced beats, while a melodic synth line twirls. ‘Excess! Excess! Excess!’ a laddish chorus chants, like your mates cheering you on as you down one more drink, despite you saying you’d had enough. The bouncing Death Of The Soul could cram an Ibiza club, and Messalina, Messalina swaps between hurrying drums and smooth guitars, staying essential throughout. Then there’s Secret Devotion – an ominous rocker with an Ian Curtis-channelling drawl courtesy of True Body’s Isabella Moreno-Riaño. Subtle dread rings out from the title track’s echoing strums and distant spoken word; Dethroned Under A Funeral Haze is as slow as a dirge, before God Says’ post-rock concludes proceedings with a breathy, sobering comedown. 

Finding the existential unease within the life and soul of the party, Lustful Sacraments is destined to be a diverse classic in, ironically, the genre Perturbator’s sick of.