Synthwave continues to bridge the gap between electronic music and heavy metal, and one of our favorite French artists, PERTURBATOR, last visited Helsinki in 2017 to share his ’80s-inspired music with the local fans. Musicalypse had attended that show, and having enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, decided to attend again at the next available opportunity: March 12th, 2019, at The Circus. Check out the full gallery here.
I personally only learned about the existence of PERTURBATOR when they last visited Nosturi, and didn’t become a fan until my partner started playing it around the house. I found myself (at the time) unable to tell the difference between PERTURBATOR and the soundtrack to an awesome Finnish video game called Nex Machina, whose soundtrack was done by Ari Pulkkinen (who is, incidentally, known for writing the theme to Angry Birds). As such, it was an easy sell to check out this show!
We arrived at The Circus around 20:45 in order to find good spots before PERTURBATOR started playing. The club music faded out at 21:00 and the crowd began to pack towards the stage as James Kent and a live drummer came on stage; that is, presuming Kent wasn’t drumming… it was very hard to see either of their faces, what with their hoods and long hair (just kidding – of course Kent was on the synthesizer).
While I haven’t personally seen Akira, I heard suspicions that the stage set-up may be influenced by that famous ’80s anime. The very sci-fi-style light rig was immediately put into use, with white spotlights supported by reds and contrasting shadows, matching the color scheme of the last few albums perfectly, creating a gorgeous ambiance that perfectly suited the music. They played some smooth yet dynamic music, and it wasn’t until 8 minutes had passed that I could tell that one song had ended and another had begun.
The crowd was fairly wooden to start with, but it wasn’t long before the music (and alcohol) loosened everyone up; after a few songs, everyone was moving. The crowd was very verbally responsive to the music, with a few people throughout The Circus screaming out every once in a while for more. Interestingly enough, neither Kent nor his partner said a word throughout the gig, though they were both extremely expressive in their movements, really getting into things. Combining the atmosphere of the music with this very silent demeanor made for a really mysterious mood; it was great. Plus I’m pretty sure at one point they were fucking with the crowd as to whether or not the song was about to end; you could practically hear the collective inhale as the entire audience waited to see if the music would die down (it didn’t – it kicked right back up again).
I could only name a handful of the songs played, such as “Humans are Such Easy Prey,” but I loved how nearly every song flowed beautifully into its predecessor. Kent didn’t need to chat anyone up, as there were hardly any breaks between tracks. The mixing was quite nice – The Circus being a club venue for the most part might have won it a few points of benefit this time around (at least from where we were standing). And I know I already mentioned the lights, but really… dang. In music that is almost completely instrumental, having that visual element really added something else to the mix that wasn’t necessary, but from which it definitely benefited.
The band did leave eventually, and the crowd roared relentlessly for more until PERTURBATOR obliged and returned for what I think was three more songs. I’d like to say that they ended on a high note, but honestly, the show never dipped in quality at any point, so it feels a bit redundant. The whole show was a high point.
Overall, this was a really terrific show, and definitely one of the best club shows I’ve seen in a while. While it’s a different beast from something like the NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA, this gig gave me exactly what I wanted – great music, played loud and with feeling. It was equally easy to be mesmerized by the lights and colors as it was to close your eyes and feel the rhythm. Whether you wanted to jump or dance of just relax, the show delivered. I’d be hard-pressed to imagine any fan going to see PERTURBATOR and coming out disappointed. I would definitely come to see this sort of thing again!
1. Birth of the New Model
2. Neo Tokyo
3. Future Club
4. She is Young, She is Beautiful, She is Next
5. Corrupted by Design
7. She Moves Like a Knife
8. Diabolus Ex Machina
9. Humans are Such Easy Prey
10. God Complex
12. Tactical Precision Disarray
13. Tainted Empire
14. Welcome Back (encore)
15. Perturbator’s Theme (encore)
16. The Cult of 2112 (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Marco Manzi