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Perturbator Layers Violent Beats and Dreamlike Soundscapes to 1980s Nostalgia

Tuesday 05th, September 2017 / 15:56
By Brayden Turenne

James Kent innovates the boundaries of retrosynth – Photo by David Fitt

VANCOUVER – As of late, there seems to be a widespread strain of nostalgia for the 1980s that has come to infect our modern pop culture. Shows such as Stranger Things and big budget reboots of old cult classics like Robocop are only the tip of the iceberg regarding this retro revival. In regards to music, an entire sub-genre of electronic is not only invoking nostalgia in older listeners, but also drawing the younger generation into the now iconic world where neon lights and nocturnal cityscapes are now emblematic.

One of the titans within this ‘retrosynth’ movement, Perturbator (born James Kent) is, ironically, looking in from the outside.

“Even though I wasn’t around in the 80s I feel as though it was somewhat a part of my childhood,” Kent admitted. It’s ironic considering just how steeped in the culture of that era his sound seems to be. Perhaps it is this fact that helps give Perturbator some of its exceeding flare, utilizing the past while simultaneously looking ahead, not dwelling too deeply on tropes or convention. Kent’s music is as much nostalgic throwback as it seems to be experimental fusion. Songs spanning the whole spectrum of emotion and drama, from more intense and violent beats, no doubt influenced by Kent’s own roots in metal, to the more airy and dreamlike soundscapes that tap into a variety of other music genres.

“I listen to and find inspiration in a lot of music genres. I think metal might be the most obvious one, but I also love funk, disco, soundtracks, shoegaze, old-school rap, etc.”

Kent cites artists such as: Miles Davis, Christian Scott, Pat Metheny as well as Mr. Bungle, Ulver and Deathspell Omega as major influences on his work. Thus, the ‘retro’ is not made from a cheap novelty, as is the case with some other artists. You would be hard pressed to find any filler on a Perturbator release. Every track has its own personality and is exemplary of painstaking composition.

“Making one single track can take up to a month or so. I’m very careful regarding each sound and each little detail,” states Kent. “I take inspiration from different places and try to craft tracks with software or hardware synths that all feel different, but still seem logical considering the album’s theme.”

Perturbator has risen to become a true force within the music underground, having even been part of the soundtrack to the massively popular video game Hotline Miami, which in itself was born out of the neon infused hyper-violent action movies of the 1980’s. Perturbator has been embraced by fans of varying genres for the sheer energy that Kent brings to his craft, having even being included in extreme metal festivals.

“The initial idea was simply to make fake movie soundtracks and recreate the atmosphere of those classic John Carpenter-esque themes. Something quite brooding and gritty,” Kent reflected, yet from that initial intent, most who are familiar with his work would agree the project has surely gone beyond and into broader places.

Peturbator plays the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver on September 9.

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