A cultural cold war divided upon class lines, a new age of surveillance, heroes’ incarcerated in the worst conditions possible for speaking out against the military complex, a corrupt press core owned by multi-national corporations and raised to repeat sound bytes. This is the post-cyberpunk world on the brink of collapse Atari Teenage Riot’s fourth album Is This Hyperreal? is born into. Every track is an iridescent explosion of nervous energy requesting your attendance in Atari Teenage Riot’s campaign party of education and awareness. Having influenced a generation of M.I.A., Crystal Castles, Le Tigre, Sleigh Bells, and Pendulum, Atari Teenage Riot is a welcome shot in the arm of the music industry.
“Activate!” starts the album with Atari Teenage Riot’s most concise statement of intent yet. On a backing of explosive 1991 hardcore jungle synths, super collider bass kicks, and guitar shrapnel Alec , Nic, and Kidtronik spurn us into a campaign of equality, activation, and eradication of ignorance.
In “Blood In My Eyes” Alec Empire merges his chiptunes style first shown in 1999’s Nintendo Teenage Robots album with the sound of Crass exploding out of the trunk two cars over. Contained within Nic’s first lead vocal in Atari Teenage Riot tells a tale of enslavement and revenge for all of the women lost within our global human trafficking problem. “Blood In My Eyes” is a riveting electronic punk rock diatribe, paying homage to the feminine retributive subtexts espoused by cult films like ‘Kill Bill’ and heavily censored French art-house offering, ‘Baise-Moi.’ “Black Flags” is a low slung, subwoofer punching, anthem announcing Atari Teenage Riot’s support of Anonymous’ grassroots human rights campaign.
We’re allowed a brief respite to catch our breath during “Is This Hyperreal?”. The album’s title track slow cooks with seething analog synths reminiscent of Vangelis’ score for Blade Runner, symphonic percussion and a gurgling acid line are the soundtrack to the birth of a cyborg. “Codebeaker” is a stomping electro rockabilly stormer. Rubbery basslines command your posterior to action; sawtooth guitars swarm your head as Alec and Kidtronik lead us onto wall street to ask the question of “What went wrong?” Dim Mak label boss Steve Aoki’s vocals add an LA Hardcore vibe to give it that much more of a brutal punch.
“Shadow Identity” is Nic’s second lead vocal of the album and the most unexpected hook. On top of a New Order bassline and what sounds like a drum line made performed by an obsolete automotive assembly line Nic interweaves a narrative of blood diamonds, global trade and consumer awareness. “Re-arrange Your Synapses” is a new gabber punk classic. The 909 drum machine speeds up to a blurred fever pitch as Alec and Nic dive bomb verses painting a near future world of post net neutrality legislation where access to money and corporations control the public’s access to information on the internet.
Atari Teenage Riot saves their most straightforward electro romp for “Digital Decay”. Showcasing a thick gurgling bassline, razor taunt snares and Nic as a floating artificial intelligence prophet. “Digital Decay” would fit perfectly into one of Aoki’s legendary DJ sets. “The Only Slight Glimmer of Hope” is dripping with uplifting brash, sing-along, sass-bag vocals and deep driving modular synth work. “The Only Slight Glimmer of Hope” is Atari Teenage Riot’s legendary effortless synthesis of Crass, Throbbing Gristle, and Kraftwerk.
“The Collapse of History” immediately makes itself known as the most unexpected and welcome Atari Teenage Riot song ever. Throwing listeners for a complete curveball Alec flexes his 90s hardcore influence by intertwining stadium sized jungle breakbeats with a national anthem. Nic transforms herself into a pop dance diva and brings her sassiest vocal performance of the album. The mind glue chorus celebrating the overthrow of corrupt institutions hits your like warm sunlight after an all night rave. As ATR ends the album “Humanity will win in the end.”