Let’s admit this right now: There’s a very fine line between the mind-blowingly cool and the utterly ridiculous, particularly in the world of entertainment. Where that line falls depends as much on attitude as on the specific elements of any given piece. For example, 1995 action film Judge Dredd—utterly ridiculous. 2012 action film Dredd—mind-blowingly cool. The dark cyberpunk future seems to be one best suited to a darker, more serious attitude: Blade Runner, Neuromancer, the Deus Ex video games. So taking 80’s retro synthwave—an inherently cheesy sort of genre—and applying a healthy dose of cyberpunk stylings might seem like a recipe for disaster. And it might well be, if Parisian musical guru James “Perturbator” Kent didn’t have his thumb directly on the pulse that separates the cheesy from the amazing.
Dangerous Days is the third full-length album from Perturbator, which also boasts four EPs and a split with Protector 101 to its name. The neon-pink album cover complete with pentagram, cyberdemons, and nude woman gives the immediate impression that this album is not to be taken seriously. The story attached to the (mostly instrumental) album about an evil supercomputer named “Satan” that is seeking to eradicate mankind only furthers that impression. And yet, when “Welcome Back” kicks off, you realize something: This is serious music.
The attitude that emanates from this album is absolutely astonishing. It can immediately transform any situation. Try a little experiment: Make a 2:00 a.m. run to the 24-hour gas station on the corner for a pack of smokes and throw Dangerous Days in the CD player. Let “Welcome Back” transition seamlessly into “Perturbator’s Theme,” and I guarantee that you will feel like Ryan Gosling in Drive even though you’re driving a busted-ass Toyota Corolla with more rust than sheet metal. Put “Future Club” on in your living room and suddenly you’re a trench-coated sunglass hero about to murder-hack your way into so many mainframes that Sean Bean, Laurence Fishburne, and Tom Cruise won’t be able to handle it. And it just goes on and on.
The album is definitely “retro,” but it’s also loaded with modern production sensibilities. The synths sound absolutely massive, particularly the bass-end, which was never a real feature of actual 80’s synthpop. The glitchy love of noise as a texture is also particularly modern, and yet Perturbator resists the urge to explicitly incorporate any of the modern “EDM” trends (see Skrillex, Boyz Noize, Steve Aoki, et al). Furthermore, the two songs that actually feature vocals, “Hard Wired” and “Minuit,” are pure darkwave. You wouldn’t think music like that could be slipped easily into what is, at its core, a dance album, but it works amazingly in both cases.
The non-stop joyride slows down a bit with “Last Kiss,” which is a great Vangelis tribute; fitting for an album so reliant on cyberpunk aesthetics, and then wraps up with the twelve-minute title track. “Dangerous Days” is perhaps the most retro-feeling track on the entire album, and yet still feels both fresh and original, although somewhat less dance-floor oriented than, say, “Raw Power” or “Satanic Rites.”
By all reasonable measures, Dangerous Days shouldn’t be cool. It should either completely cheese it up or fall apart under the weight of its own pretension, yet somehow it doesn’t. This is one album that’s kept me coming back on repeat since I first heard it. Don’t pass up the opportunity to make your life a little more amazing. Listen to Dangerous Days.
01) Welcome Back
02) Perturbator’s Theme
03) Raw Power
04) Future Club
05) War Against Machines
06) Hard Wired
07) She Is Young, She Is Beautiful, She Is Next
08) Humans Are Such Easy Prey
10) Satanic Rites
11) Complete Domination
12) Last Kiss
13) Dangerous Days