2+2 Reviews: Late April 2021 (Perturbator, Epica, Spirit of the Beehive, Dry Cleaning)

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Perturbator – Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze

BH: Perturbator’s first full length album in five years, Lustful Sacraments, is dropping in June.  The two singles that have hit so far have been some of his bleakest and darkest synthwave tracks to date.  

I was first introduced to James Kent AKA Perturbator with a super cool remix he did for Cult of Luna.  

His style contains notes of John Carpenter meets Vangelis a la Blade Runner.  You know, think pitch black sky, neon signs, big city synth-y vibes.

“Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze” feels like an expedition through the dreary, rain soaked streets of LA in 2040.  It feels futuristic but not too far away.    

The vocals used sparingly here remind me of Robert Smith’s on a particularly depressing day.  

The songwriting overall on this track is still very much in line with what Perturbator has been doing on his other releases, but also injects a bit of what makes some of the post metal groups like Cult of Luna tick.

I do think this is a grower of a song but I’ve given it probably fifteen spins so far and it has only continued to become more interesting on each listen.  I can’t wait to hear the full album.

George, are you familiar with Perturbator’s work?  Are you a fan of dark synthwave in general?

GF: You were actually the person who put me on to them! I think it was March, or February of this year that you sent me their music? 

In any case, you hit the nail on the head with your descriptor of, “John Carpenter meets Vangelis a la Blade Runner.”

This is not especially uplifting, or happy music, but that’s okay, because ooh, boy– the atmosphere, the atmosphere, the atmosphere.

I can appreciate the Robert Smith comparison too. Strangely enough, when I first heard this, it kind of struck me as like a very dark detour for the James Bond theme song, “The Living Daylights,” that 80s superstars A-ha, did?

I’m sure absolutely no one else is going to feel that way, but yeah… if Morten Harket was having a real bummer of a day, I feel like he’d be singing something along the lines of this.

Regarding dark synthwave, I can’t say that it’s a genre I’m super familiar with. We might have to have a sidebar conversation where I get some recommendations from you, because both of the tunes that you’ve shown me from Mr. Kent hit nicely for me.

Epica – The Skeleton Key

Epica is a band I’ve known of for years and despite loving Nightwish, Blind Guardian and others in the symphonic metal scene, I just haven’t ever given them a proper chance.

Enter “The Skeleton Key”.  

This track really puts the epic in the band’s name.  This is a super catchy, well written and orchestrated track.  

It does bring to mind a song like “Nemo” from Nightwish but with some harsh vocals, mixed in with the beautiful operatic vocals from Simone Simons.  I really like her vocal lines here and she has terrific range.  

The piano intro is strong and a great way to start off the song.  Really beautiful stuff.

There’s also some solid riffage in here too, especially towards the back half of the song.  It’s a nice balance of both light and heavy.  

If I chose one song to listen to while slaying some orcs in a forest, this might be it.  In all seriousness though, the chorus in particular has a way of staying in my head for days and I’ll definitely be returning for some more Epica.     

Spirit of the Beehive – There’s Nothing you Can’t do

GF: Full-disclosure, I was fully ignorant to this band’s music until a day ago or so, but I’m pretty much 100% on board now that I’ve discovered them.

This doesn’t fall into the confines of what we usually write about over here as it’s ostensibly a pop song, but I’m inclined to include it, because of how experimental and outright… WEIRD it is?

It also, low-key, shifts into an almost NIN-type dirge for the last third of the proceedings– one that includes some shouted vocals, so I feel like it gets some credit in that department.

In any case, what drew me to the song outside of its generally experimental nature is the fact that it flirts with, and perhaps, outrights LEANS into dissonance in some of its melodies.

A guitar figure that runs through about the first two thirds of the song has a few chromatic notes in it that plays against the really pleasant vocal leads in an mildly uncomfortable, but delightful way. 

It’s like an appetizer to the full-on chaos and terror that defines the song’s home stretch, and I appreciate the subtle nature of that build.

Brandon, I know you hadn’t heard of these folks either, so I’m curious to hear what your knee-jerk reaction was to hearing their music. What elements immediately stuck out to you, upon first listen? In terms of the song’s structure, do you think the payoff of the closing section was earned? What were your favorite moments or elements?

BH: I think right out of the gate I appreciated just how weird this song is.  

As you mentioned, it’s pop but only kinda.  It’s not really structured in a traditional way and there are some experimental almost avante-garde touches here.  

I didn’t quite know what to make of it all initially but I dig what they’re doing.  After several spins, it started opening up a bit more to me.

Regarding your question on the payoff, I do think it was earned and like you, I greatly appreciated the subtle build and the shift right at the end.  The song is unsettling throughout but as it gets towards the climax, it gets damn near terrifying.  

As in, I could totally see this being a jam for Buffalo Bill.

The songwriting actually reminds me a little of what Greg Puciato is doing at the moment with some of his solo work.  There are some abstract pieces in here and it can feel a bit uncomfortable at times, but it comes together in a satisfying way. 

Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg

GF: So, this is the title cut from, “Dry Cleaning’s,” debut album, released by legendary label 4AD. Previously, I’d not heard of them, but I’ve liked what I’ve heard.

The band’s sound occupies a lane that seems inspired equally by Blondie, Talking Heads, and 80s King Crimson. The guitars here sound almost exactly like Adrian Belew’s and Robert Fripp’s work circa 1981-ish, and you’ll find no complaints from me.

Structurally, some of the riffs flirt with what those gentlemen were doing too, but not in a way that’s derivative. The rhythms don’t ever get knotty in the way that some of those King Crimson songs did, and they’re propulsive in a way that makes me want to cook something?

I feel like that probably sounds strange, but hearing this, I feel like it’s kinda what I want to have playing in the kitchen if I’m trying to groove while I chef.

The vocals, courtesy of Florence Shaw, are delivered without any real sort of enthusiasm, but that strikes me as very intentional. To be clear, it’s tremendous, as she’s able to make droll delivery gel so successfully with the rest of what’s going on. It kinda reminds me of some of what Lou Reed used to do, the difference being that Shaw is British, so you get that accent in there too, which gives things a nice added bit of dimension.

Bottom line, it’s a great tune, and I can’t wait to dive further into the rest of their album.

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