James Kent, aka Perturbator Credit: David Fitt

French multi-instrumentalist James Kent, who makes music as Perturbator, has a lifelong history with synthesizers—his parents were in a band that used them—and he negotiates the possibilities of his instruments as fluently as a native tongue. Though Kent has a background as a black-metal guitarist, he prefers to work alone, and as he told Tunecore in 2016, he found electronic music to be the best genre for that. Kent burst onto the scene in 2012, dropping two Perturbator full-lengths and three EPs in one year. He also helms a dark-ambient project called L’Enfant de la Forêt and has had his music featured in several video games and television series. Since that spectacular debut, Perturbator hasn’t stayed quite as prolific, but the intricacies of the project’s retro-inspired, metal-inflected darkwave sound have remained intact on the albums and EPs he’s put out since then. Perturbator’s new fifth full-length, Lustful Sacraments, continues Kent’s explorations of electronic film soundtracks, Krautrock, shoegaze, goth, and industrial to create something that’s by turns romantic, harrowing, unsettling, and fierce (if not all at once). Based around a theme of dissolution and self-destruction, the music gets its hooks in you and drags you deep into its darkest waters. The album features a few choice guest spots: members of French doom band Hangman’s Chair add a dreamy undertow to the elegiac “God Says,” while Virginia postpunks True Body bring an 80s-style dark synth-pop groove to “Secret Devotion.” Perturbator really cuts loose on the title track, which is sweeping and somberly grand but still danceable, and on the single “Death of the Soul,” whose dramatic industrial punch recalls Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. “Messalina, Messalina” brings Kent’s metal leanings to the forefront with a pounding pulse and sinister chiming that evoke desperation (more so if you know the story of the doomed Roman empress parodied in the 1977 film of the same name). If time is a circle rather than a line, Perturbator is at a great advantage; on Lustful Sacraments, Kent takes inspiration from the past five decades of electronica to weave a tapestry that would look great on the wall of a plague house.   v