The Best Albums of 2016, #14

band0114. Perturbator, The Uncanny Valley (Blood Music)

It’s surreal how synthwave has not only become cool – it’s now in very high demand by horror filmmakers – but also how it’s crossed over into the metal scene. Granted metal has always had its toes dipped into the classic soundtracks by Goblin, Popol Vuh, and John Carpenter, and a band like Zombi played a major role bridging krautrock-derived synth music with metal’s more aggressive side. But in the wake of the Stranger Things fad and movies like It Follows and The Guest, it has exploded. Like any trend, though, it quickly becomes very easy to separate the contenders from the pretenders, and over the past few years James Kent, who goes by the name Perturbator, has emerged as arguably the best of the lot. Kent is an interesting fellow, because he claims to listen to primarily metal music, and you can definitely hear the aggression of metal in his pulsating, propulsive compositions. But I don’t know if he knows it or not, but he is channeling classic Giorgio Moroder in a way that none of his peers are doing, and that is the huge reason why I personally enjoy Perturbator so much more than anything else in that micro-genre. The songs are so catchy, evoking visions of leather and chrome, and have an undeniable dance element to it. Cinematic as his albums are, and The Uncanny Valley indeed feels like a soundtrack to a crazed dystopian sci-fi flick in Kent’s own mind, this isn’t ambient, or “mood” music. The music pounds more than broods, and compels listeners to move, darn it. Over the course of 68 minutes The Uncanny Valley smartly mixes things up between throttling trance, shimmering dreampop, instrumentals, and vocal tracks. If that wasn’t enough, Arielle Zucker-Brunn’s artwork is a perfect reflection of the vivid music therein: sleek, cinematic, futuristic, dark, sexy.