Allow me to get the boring stuff out of the way first by providing some context on where I come from with regards to Perturbator. I really like his music, but for some reason not easily pin-pointed, I find it hard to listen to for prolonged periods of time. I loved Dangerous Days and thought The Uncanny Valley was a nice logical step forward without straying too far from what Perturbator was, but I can only spin those records once or twice in a row without moving on. That’s weird for me; if I really like something, I can spin it several times a day. So going into New Model, I was expecting a situation similar to past ones. It was quite apparent on the first playthrough that this was a project demanding multiple listens in order to properly digest, but there were multiple listens that I gladly gave it with no second thought.
The proclaimed French half-human, half-synthesizer has crafted a hard-hitting and dense piece of music that breaks the mold of expectation for himself and darksynth music as a whole, easily transcending his past work.
The title New Model has two distinct interpretations to me. The first is conceptual – the one that I will review this music through primarily – provided by Perturbator himself: ‘the narrative puts the listener in the point-of-view of an omnipotent A.I. – the New Model – a piece of human technology so advanced that it transcends concepts such as life, death, time, space, sense or language. The New Model is everything and everywhere at the same time.’ The second is more abstract; Perturbator is very much self-aware that this project breaks away from his past work and what has since become the standard for the retrofuturistic and darksynth music of which he’s been at the forefront of. The skeleton might be there, but the viscera creates an entirely different beast. This EP is, in and of itself, the ‘new model’ of the genre, and a very welcome one at that.
“Birth of the New Model” is, fittingly, symbolic of a beginning. The sounds are indicative of waking machinery roused from sleep to build; the genesis of a mechanical form yet unseen by anyone before. The programmed hi-hat ticks emulate the rotating of gears; heavy, airy synths act as artificial hammers that strike at the metal body to give it form; the bass pumps and pulses, giving the form life and feeling. The finished product sets the tone for the rest of the EP, looming over us as a great creation unparalleled by anything before it. “Tactical Precision Disarray” is similarly industrial with its sound, but more deliberate and complete. The intro shows our machine taking its first steps into the world, with multilayered synths sounding like pounding footsteps against a sterile metal floor. The song opens up to a lighter atmosphere, allowing the track to breathe more freely while synths still hang in the back acting as the ‘heartbeat’; it’s as if this is the moment the AI witnesses the wide expanse of the world for the first time. The climax of this song quicken the beats per minute before the synths drone on into our next song.
“Vantablack”, a substance made of vertical artificial carbon nanotube arrays said to be one of the blackest artificial substances known to humankind, is the only song with a vocal guest on it. In keeping with its namesake, it’s also the darkest and most disturbing song on the EP. French electropop act OddZoo sing lyrics lightly with off-putting enunciation; ‘please allow me to play / with my shiny stainless blade / and stroke your marble skin / and feel the steel slide between your thighs‘. Our machine expresses the desire to love an unknown figure before (while?) killing them, overwrought with the full spectrum of human emotion. The instrumentation is understated, simply providing a soundscape for the vocals. It matches the many tones of the lyrics from slow and romantic, to panicked and anxious. This song captures a forbidden, macabre rapture that genuinely gives you chills and makes you uneasy and in need of cleaning afterwards.
“Tainted Empire” sounds like a fast-paced tour through a dystopian city, dangerously cruising through darkened streets and weaving between monolithic skyscrapers for a front-row seat of the corruption and oppression that haunts the city like a plague. The fast beat has dark and sinister qualities to it, utilizing thick and punchy synths before showing its brighter side in the middle of the track with more melodic, sunny synths. “Corrupted by Design” is the slowest burn of the project, but still heavy and entrancing like a Gesaffelstein track. Off-kilter synths poke in and out of the dancy drum beat. It’s a nice break before we get to the longest and last song. “God Complex” closes New Model out by giving us a varied track that smacks of revelation and growth, sonically and conceptually. It’s here that we realize our AI-driven machine has reached peak sentience, the synths sounding distinctly electronic like robotic synapses firing back and forth to process its newfound enlightenment and sensory ability. Listeners are given a similar feeling as the synths soar high throughout the track before dipping down to a nice ominous, buzzing low which fizzles out slowly as if entering hibernation.
Perturbator maintains that there are built-in flaws within his music here, confessing that he did not write New Model with the intent to please an audience. As examples, he’s stated that “God Complex” is too long and there’s no hook on “Corrupted by Design” on purpose. Seeing as these follow the creative credo of ‘it’s a feature, not a bug’, these perceived flaws are an inherent part of the EP’s great production and I myself would not call them flaws, let alone hold them against the enjoyment of this project.
Much like the AI that this album’s concept follows, New Model flirts with perfection. Even the sole vocal feature of this album was executed so well that I’d go as far as saying it made the song. I have no qualms, nitpicks or reservations with this EP. Whether fans and contemporaries treat this as the new standard for dark electronic music will remain to be seen. As it stands at this moment, New Model is an unmistakable bucking of trends and peak artistry within a genre that is rife with decay and overcrowding much like the cyberpunk cityscapes this music so often portrays. I love it.
Notable Tracks: “Birth of the New Model”; “Vantablack”
FFO: Dan Terminus, GosT, Tommy ’86, Gesaffelstein
New Model is available digitally on iTunes, Google Play and various other streaming services. Vinyl and CD purchases can be made through Blood Music. Follow Perturbator on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud.