I review three random songs. I could have had a “collaborations” theme or an “electronic music” theme, but that didn’t really pan out. Enjoy!
The Uncanny Valley Bonus EP
Released: May 7, 2016
Half human, half synthesizer, James “Perturbator” Kent pops open your skull like a 1980s video game console and shoves his latest cartridge of cinematic, retrofuturistic synthwave, The Uncanny Valley, right between your puny human ears. The goal of the game? Try not to imagine yourself smack dab in the middle of the action in movies like The Terminator or Blade Runner.
Hailing from France, Kent has been releasing pulse-pounding soundtracks to futuristic dystopian nightmares under this dirty-sounding moniker since 2012. And if you stuck around after the credits for The Uncanny Valley, you were treated to some choice bonus footage: the very next day, Kent gifted us with an EP of leftovers from the Valley sessions. Among them, the sweet thrill ride “VERS/US.”
Though an unfinished demo, “VERS/US” is perfect as is. With Perturbator, you’re either in a fight scene, a chase scene, a love scene, or a montage. Here, you’ve just gone through all four, except now you’re the one being hunted in the hazy discotheque, dodging another burst of laser beams just before you dive through the plate-glass window and land in your sidekick’s waiting Iroc, clutching the recovered microchip that will save the world from an early doomsday like a motherfucking sci-fi MacGuyver.
“Ashes of Love” feat. Caroline Polachek
Danny L. Harle
Sony Music Entertainment UK
Released: May 6, 2016
Just when I thought I had found my favorite dance track of 2016 in Kristin Kontrol’s “X-Communicate,” along comes producer/composer Danny L. Harle and Caroline Polacheck (Chairlift) with “Ashes of Love” to give the Dum Dum Girls frontwoman a run for her money.
The spritz and glitz of “Ashes of Love” may move you to immediately dismiss this as dance floor trash. But I implore you to wait it out, because it’s quite the classy, hyperactive pop tune, with a surprisingly rich arrangement to boot. It’s also like a Lay’s potato chip: betcha can’t listen just once.
Caught in the grip of a post-breakup loneliness, Polachek bounces between wistful and mildly hopeful. Her voice is treated with just a dash of Autotune, and while her random glottal squeaks should be annoying, it’s kind of fun to try to guess where the next one will pop up. Though Harle has referred to his first single, 2013’s “Broken Flowers,” as “completely frivolous,” I’d straight up punch him in the stomach for saying such a thing about “Ashes of Love.”
Would you do me a favor, please? Stop questioning my musical tastes and just sign my change.org petition urging Harle and Polachek to take action now on writing and releasing a bigger bag of chips.
“Freedom Song”/“Tears for the West” feat. Jaz Coleman
Released: April 22, 2016
Headlines like “Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Duff McKagan Has Thought” or “Some Guy from Pearl Jam Does Thing” would typically blend into the digital scenery during my nightly scrollfest through Twitter. But when I see the same headlines invoking Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, my thumb stops dead in its tracks.
Now that foul digit of mine is serving time in a rusty thumbscrew.
On “Freedom Song,” Coleman’s electrifying and sensual bellow is all bark and plenty of bite. But the music from the rock stars behind him? Trite and tepid, to be kind. It gets worse on “Tears for the West,” a wannabe protest anthem in the key of “pukey charity single.” Sorry, Coleman—you’ve done a much better job at West-shaming on “New Jerusalem” and “Dark Forces.”
With three core members—whose best work is decades behind them—and a rotating cast of guest vocalists, Levee Walkers threatens to taunt us with more of this gunk as they vow to disappear and reappear like the phantom “levee walkers” of the South. Fortunately for me, I don’t believe in ghosts.