Every once in a while, a concept album comes along that toes the line between entirely self-indulgent and possibly brilliant. There was 1975’s compilation of rock and roll legends like Joni Mitchell writing songs about Spider Man, Green Day’s entire mid-2000’s catalogue (and subsequent broadway musical), possibly everything by Kate Bush ever. While it’s mostly fallen out of fashion, the trend that was originally birthed during the time when rock was pop seems to be creeping back. There’s The Weeknd’s recent Dawn FM (narrated by Jim Carrey), and Grimes’s much hyped, much teased ‘lesbian A.I space opera’ Claire De Lune. But for all the Planet Hers and Chromaticas of late, it’s Perel’sJesus Was An Alien that takes the cake as the most intriguing and bonkers of the bunch. The German producer has crafted a curious album that swings through influences from acid, EBM, and synthpop in search of the divine, imagining an alternate gospel in which Jesus was in fact a being from outer space.
To set the scene of this alternate history, Perel turns to New Wave. Her cosmic, near psychedelic compositions of retro-tinged analogue synths are inspired by indie dance music of the early 2000s and informed by her synesthesia. Subsequently, Jesus Was An Alien is a textured and colourful album, stretching into the expanse of space with layers of sci-fi sounds and nightscape-like aesthetics. It’s varied, but stylistically succinct. The album is sectioned with pseudo-interludes, opening with the twisting drones and ominous organ keys of The Tragedy of CG and later, the spacey trip-hop of Religion. The seven minute epic title track is inspired in its choice of Davidson as our divine guide into the thesis statement of the album. Real is New Wave meets nu-disco, with a strange post-verse bridge that mangles its lead synth line into an amorphous, mechanical alien snarl. The italo-cum-city pop groove of Matrix is quite cool, and thankfully avoids any trite connotations with its title. Perel herself is as dextrous as her music, her voice shifting from the divine cosmic (Religion), to the camp theatrical (Principle of Vibration), to clerical dominatrix (Kill The System). The latter is a standout, a sticky, ethereal techno spaceship voyage with lashings of acid synths designed to make you see God.
The most impressive feat of Jesus Was An Alien lies in how Perel manages to fuse the devotional with the hedonistic, intertwining her references and ideas in a way that somehow holds up and perhaps, might even make sense. Part of the reason is probably because she never slaps you repeatedly in the face with her concept statement. Rather, she masterfully creates the atmosphere of her imagined utopia so that it is accessed by way of the music. Speaking on the album, Perel said, “Jesus Was An Alien is a discourse about whether Jesus was an actual alien, but also a social debate about what is and implies religion today.” While locating the nightclub as a church is no new trope (God Is A DJ, and all that), Perel breathes a sort of new life to the concept by embracing the bizarre. In giving in to her inherent weirdness, the dancefloor becomes not only a church, but a not-so-distant evangelical planet upon which saints and icons alike gather to dance and genuflect under some sort of holy neon milky way. Essentially, she’s dismantling the system by othering it. Strange, challenging, and brilliantly camp, Jesus Was An Alien exceeds expectations in the best of ways.Kate Bush would be proud.
Listen to Kill The System from Jesus Was An Alien below.