Perturbator is giving synthwave a dark baptism on new album, ‘Lustful Sacraments’

Image by David Fitt

It has become clear across his discography that French darkwave and synth overlord Perturbator is constantly evolving and pushing the boundaries of his sound. While the science fiction inspired retro synthwave aesthetic can quickly outmode itself once the nostalgia wears off, Perturbator has avoided this by progressing his music through broad influences, all while retaining the turgid darkness at its core that landed him several tracks on the Hotline Miami soundtrack. What this signifies is an artist who is largely shaping the direction of his niche, something that began with 2017’s New Model which saw him pivot synthwave away from retro-futurism toward dystopian industrial. Now, on his fifth album Lustful Sacraments, released through BloodMusic, he’s pushing it towards the sullen foreboding of late 80’s goth rock. 

What immediately distinguishes Lustful Sacraments from its predecessors is the album’s instrumentation. The percussion is more organic and there is the strong addition of dissonant guitar strings, a recurring motif across its 9 tracks. The synth work, while still the music’s undeniable focal point, has also evolved away from its usual space in the driver’s seat toward something a lot more atmospheric. God Says, which features the French doom rock outfit Hangman’s Chair, is largely a work of electronic rock music. The near 10 minute long track opens with a soundscape of bubbling, sinister ambient synths that explode in its final act into a buzzing aria against lethargic drums for a dramatic doomcore goth rock denouement. Taken against the modular melodies of 2015’s Night Driving Avenger or even the pulsing stabs on New Model, the shift that Lustful Sacraments marks for the language of Perturbator’s synths is clear. 

These stylistic developments thrust the artist further into darkness than before. The music here is significantly more goth-adjacent, and filled with the sort of gloomy overtones that recall the pallor and sallowness of late 80s goth culture. The Depeche Mode influence is unmistakable, and at times unavoidable. On Secret Devotion, he enlists Isabel Moreno-Riaño of post-punk band True Body to give his best David Gahan, and the album’s overall exploration into the distorted sounds of post-punk live percussion place it firmly as part of the Songs of Faith and Devotion lineage. Elsewhere, Death of the Soul plays with the vapid, rattling alien synths of darkpsy, placing them atop darkwave drums in a genius moment of musical connect-the-dots. 

Lustful Sacraments stands as an exciting step forward in the artist’s catalogue, and the creative progression it displays is enough to warrant the album a significant amount of merit. The future may look darker than before, but there’s some pleasure to be had in assuming Perturbator will likely provide its soundtrack and, even more likely, has begun conjuring it from his machines as we speak. 

Download Lustful Sacraments here, and listen to God Says (feat. Hangman’s Chair) below:

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