No dream lasts forever…
Perpacity originally emerged as a collaboration between Ian Harling, based in the UK and Martin Nyrup, who lives in Denmark. Their 2015 debut album The Sinner Inclination was followed up by several well-received singles, including the silky beats of ‘Obscene’, the muscular ‘Rule the Day’ and a suitably darkwave take on Depeche Mode’s ‘The Things You Said’. Conflagration marks their fourth studio album release, which arrived via ScentAir Records this year.
Prior to coming together as Perpacity, the pair had already chalked up many years of writing and composing music separately. Nyrup originally began writing music for computer games in the 1980s, while Harling had experience playing in live bands for many years.
Intriguingly, their initial collaborative work wasn’t music-oriented at all. Instead, the duo turned their talents to writing, with the subject of choice being mentalism – the psychological manipulation and hypnosis techniques that the likes of Derren Brown and David Blaine employ. In fact it wasn’t until eight years working together as authors that Harling offered to sing on one of Nyrup’s compositions, which led to the formation of Perpacity.
Even with three previous releases under their belt, Conflagration still presented a challenge for the pair. “Creating an album isn’t just about writing music nowadays” suggests Nyrup, “you have to be able to do for yourself a lot of the things that record companies can no longer afford to do for you. It means we have to think about things like promotion, artwork and videos – and even once an album is done and released there’s still a lot of work to do, so you get little time to stop.”
As an album, Conflagration offers up shifting soundscapes that lean towards a melancholic, more introspective side of electronic music. It’s a heady mix of ideas and approaches that draws in inspiration from climate change, injustice, pandemics and big business, typified by the track ‘Burn’.
‘Burn’ proved to be a bizarrely coincidental song that seems eerily in-step with the current Covid crisis, yet was originally penned in September 2019. “We had no idea then about what was to come, and it became quite spooky to watch it unfold” comments Ian Harling, “you have to wonder sometimes where inspiration comes from and what triggered the idea in Martin’s mind so far ahead of time.”
As a song, ‘Burn’ has a tightly-coiled approach to rhythms against immersive synth melodies. There’s a strong visual element to the lyrics in places (“Irradiated zombies toting guns in malls”), given a slightly unsettling aspect in Harling’s vocal delivery.
Meanwhile, ‘Allerød’ offers up a love letter of sorts to the Danish municipality with its string synths and Harling’s wistful narrative, Lines such as “If I sailed away, I’d miss your silence” have a haunting quality that offers both ambiguity and intrigue.
Where Conflagration starts to kick up a gear however is on the more strident tones of ‘You said’, whose stately tones and hymnal aspect present a weightier side to Perpacity’s sound. The song slots in themes of the passage of time and awakening nestling in its lyrics: “You said, “No dream lasts forever, their colours fade in time”. It’s a bittersweet composition with some nice percussive elements underpinning the whole affair.
‘Mice of men’ preceded Conflagration as a single at the start of 2020. There’s more of a bite here amongst both its regimented beats and the more visceral attitude presented in the lyrics: “Though subjugated, do we bite the hand that feeds us?/Or do we show these motherfuckers what we’re made of?”
There’s more of a character study on ‘Alison’ through warm electronic layers and sultry synth work. Meanwhile, the breezy ‘These special times’ offers up an Americana-themed travelogue. The echo-washed guitar licks blend in smoothly with more subtle synth washes.
But perhaps the album’s finest moment comes courtesy of the moody ‘Beneath the shores of death’. It’s a doleful slab of synth-driven angst with some suitably morose lyrics (“I am in the dark place/I’m learning to embrace/I want to be here no more”), here delivered by Martin Nyrup himself. There’s a mesmerising unease about this track which gravitates around Nyrup’s gothic vocals.
Closing the album out, ‘This emptiness of mine’ is a thoughtful reverie that weaves in cryptic lyrical lines (“Sick and tired of walking wires in a hurricane/But I’m sure that it’s not a waste of time”) against a starker musical arrangement.
Conflagration also comes with a striking sleeve design. The haunting figure who forms the subject of the sleeve is actually a cousin of Martin Nyrup, taken by German photographer Daniel Samanns (www.wetplate-berlin.com/). The concept was produced utilising a pre-modern era wet plate photographic process, hence the strangely dated feel of the final image.
“I’m always excited at the prospect of starting a new album though” reflects Nyrup on Conflagration, “and getting another chance to try extend ourselves musically. We’re still learning and always will be, but that in itself is one of the pleasures of doing it.”
Conflagration is out now on ScentAir Records.