To close out this miniseries, we come to my most favored record: The Uncanny Valley. It’s not video game related at all (unless you consider the artist’s cameo in Hotline Miami) but I think it’s great nonetheless. It’s probably my favorite atmospheric album, if not my favorite album of all time. But after all, who would I be if I didn’t at least collect records that aren’t video game related? Maybe a more niche collector, but that’s not the point. The point is that this one’s my favorite. It’s also the only deluxe edition I own. How I obtained it is irrelevant.
Released on May 6, 2017, The Uncanny Valley marked a career high for synthwave artist Perturtbator. It stands at #14 on Rate Your Music’s chart of best electronic albums of 2016, and brought a spotlight to an otherwise unknown genre of music. With the rise of cyberpunk in pretty much everything, it paints a very distinct portrait of a central city: Neo-Tokyo. And so do many other pieces: Ghost in the Shell and Akira invent the setting. Shadowrun has a plethora of lore pertaining to Neo-Tokyo and it influences the stage they set their RPG in. Blade Runner shows that Neo-Tokyo is an influence across the globe. That’s just to name a few. The difference here is that Akira is a movie, it has images. Shadowrun has a deep, thick book of lore. The Uncanny Valley, despite the fact that its deluxe edition includes a graphic novel, does a fantastic job of illustrating the sounds and evils of cyberpunk.
An Album That Plays Like a Comic Book
There are very specific story beats that The Uncanny Valley tackles. It builds upon the story that was left behind in Dangerous Days: Satan, a computer, taking over the world by corrupting humans and androids. A hero comes in and saves the day, and the plot lays dormant until a cult tries to awaken Satan (the computer) three years later. The hero returns, and liberates Neo-Tokyo with the help of an android assassin. And there’s something in there about the android becoming human? It’s cheesy, but it works.
It’s incredibly over the top, it falls into tropes, and yet? For an album? Pretty enticing. For a comic book? Yes, it’s a trope because superheroes deal with the “saving evil then it comes back because of fanatics after they’ve retired” thing constantly. The Incredibles did it. And everyone is anticipating that sequel. So, why an album? Why’s it novel here?
It isn’t. I just appreciate good worldbuilding.
And I do appreciate the fact that, even if it’s a reach, there’s at least some legitimacy to the plot.
Design, Art, and The Vinyl
This is where it starts to get cool. Aside from the accidental marbling in the Furi vinyl, this is the only one that I have that has a deliberate design choice involved by splattering pink and purple into a clear disc. It’s unique, different from disc to disc even in its own package. It did also come in a glow-in-the-dark red, which I may go out of my way to purchase at some point.
In other aspects of the design, it’s a lot more dark, invoking the satanic imagery that is synonymous to metal for almost all suburban moms. The art on the actual album cover, inside jackets, and graphic novel is all sketchy and unfinished, evoking uneasy feelings like the album’s titular effect. They’re all drawn by Ariel ZB, a New York City based artist. (Be warned, much of his work is NSFW, The Uncanny Valley included.)
The graphic novel helps to fill in some of the gaps left in the album’s inner jacket and connect loose events in the plot. And to further get down into the world, Perturbator released an expansion album also included in the deluxe edition. It contains more atmospheric tracks and one was featured as the theme for MTV’s 2016 European Music Awards.
Somehow I managed to say “yeah this albums is great, listen to it at least once” in more paragraphs than one. If you’re looking for music that will set the stage for a perfect, empty-highway night drive, listen to this album. If you need some background music for Shadowrun, use this album.
Now you may be thinking: was this whole series just a ruse to get to this one? Well, no, but I did think of it shortly after I started writing the post on Hotline Miami. Much like the numerous other electronic artists that have been featured in video games (Disasterpeace being another, in Hyper Light Drifter), Perturbator just does a good job at setting a stage that’s easy to visualize. The Uncanny Valley isn’t any different. Though new releases have more of a distinct, less synthwave sound, this one is still good. That and I’ll probably hail its last track as the best song to drive to at night. Full stop.
Cover image via @post_engineering on Instagram.