Perturbator @ Brighton Music Hall

Perturbator

September 29th, 2017 @ Brighton Music Hall

By: Robert Kerstens


With Blade Runner 2049 poised to be one of the biggest blockbusters of 2017, it’s clear that 80’s sci-fi is coming back in a big way. The twilit electronic subgenre of Synthwave is part of this resurgence, taking its cues from the dark, synth-heavy soundtracks of 80’s sci-fi films. This sound recently contributed to the eerie ambiance of Netflix’s Stranger Things with a score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of S U R V I V E. The same ominous synth atmospherics that make the series so spooky also make up the core of Perturbator’s dystopian dance music. His chilling cyberpunk onslaught has a surprising popularity among metalheads, who packed Brighton Music Hall last Friday night to witness Perturbator’s gritty-reboot vision of the future.

Perturbator wasn’t the only performer relying heavily on sci-fi tropes. Opener Protector 101 came on wearing what appeared to be a knockoff Daft Punk helmet. The bottom half of his face was awkwardly exposed, as if a tiny alien spaceship had tried to abduct him but his head got stuck in the opening. The music was as half-baked as the costume, with slow buildups of synth that fell out of nowhere into EDM-style bass drops. The music failed to match the hype that Protector 101 brought with his over-the-top stage presence, dancing like an A.I. that learned its moves watching EDM night at a frat house. The second opener, Das Mortal also played a set of sinister synth-house, although with a slightly crisper sound that gave the music room to breathe. He employed a wide range of textures, from squelching laser beam synths to the chirp of 808 percussion embellishments. His music was club-friendlier than the other acts on the bill, yet shared the same techno-goth aesthetic.

Perturbator came on stage with a hood shadowing his face like a stock photo of a hacker, playing atop what appeared to be a menacing next-gen server custom built to breach your firewall. A slow build-up of spine-tingling synth lines swelled into the cold-sweat banger ‘Neo Tokyo’. The crowd was rabid and restless and before long, push came to shove and a mosh-pit broke out. The whole room shuddered from the bass, blasting with enough force to soil a good pair of slacks. Between the oppressive synths and the synchronized lights strobing like a fire alarm, it was the sonic equivalent of the panic felt as a virus hijacks your computer.

Although you could probably find a setlist online, in person the songs just blurred together into a relentless industrial drone. Time slowed as reams of green light rained down like Matrix code. Each song was its own harrowing experience; a constant barrage of grinding, crushing and zapping over ceaseless 4-on-the-floor bass. But when every single song sounds like an apocalyptic robot rebellion, eventually the novelty wears off.

The show had all the gloss of a high concept sci-fi thriller but without any of the dynamic plot elements that make those films engaging. With so little variety between songs, my appetite for Perturbator’s heart-pounding retro-futurism was quickly satisfied. It might be entertaining to watch a 5-minute sequence of Tom Cruise sprinting across a circuit board city. But nobody wants to watch an hour and a half movie of Tom Cruise running through the same CGI environment. The excitement is unsustainable and quickly becomes exhausting.

Listen to Perturbator’s newest EP, New Model, here:

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