Perturbator @ Brighton Music Hall


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:

About Robert Kerstens 24 Articles
Growing up in the suburban hinterlands of Southborough MA, Bert Kerstens was just a small town boy with big city dreams. He found his natural home at Northeastern University, where he came to study Behavioral Neuroscience and Communication Studies. After his WRBB radio show "The Space Jam" got cancelled due to low ratings, Bert decided to join the media team as a music journalist. When it comes to reviewing a musical work, Bert considers LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" to be the gold standard to which all other music should be compared, and it is the only track he has ever given a perfect score.

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