Carpenter Brut @ The Underworld, London on Thursday 26th January 2017
Tonight sees French synthwave artist Carpenter Brut live in London for the first time ever. The show at the Underworld is sold out, predictable given the fate of fellow genre stars Perturbator last May. This is one of the premier names within this particular surge of electro ‘80s devotion and hopefully the concert encourages further investment from similar artists to incorporate London on to their touring schedules. The genre may be nascent and unknown relative to broader electronic styles but the ardent support of its listeners cannot be ignored. They are diverse in their interests; electronic fans, gamers and metalheads mingle within.
Bruttake the stage at a stuffy Underworld unleashing the opener from ‘Trilogy’, ‘Escape from Midwich Valley’,perfect for painting the scene with expectant atmosphere promising plenty. Differing from other synthwave artists that have made the trip to the capital, Brut fleshes out his set with a live guitarist and drummer, a superior alternative to all eyes on an individual engrossed on their laptop. Additionally, a projector screen showcases samples from colourful ‘80s films. Wordlessly, Brut and his live musicians race through a set jam-packed with adventurous ‘80s nostalgia, incorporating groovy, atmospheric, distorted and extremely danceable elements.
The congested venue leaves scant room for any kind of elaborate dance moves but the audience’s buoyancy and enthusiasm throughout the night is evident with fists pounding inaudible rhythms and key melodies vocalised en masse. Almost every song from each of the three EPs that forms the ‘Trilogy’ album are represented tonight (‘L.A. Venice Bitch ‘80s’, ‘347 Midnight Demons’ and ‘Obituary’ are omitted), which delights every ardent fan as well as introducing the curious to a wide-ranging scope of Brut’s audio enchantments. Particular highlights include the driving-by-the-beach-in-a-convertible ‘Paradise Warfare’, the urgent ‘Run Sally Run’ and the ostensible tribute to director Lucio Fulci ‘Disco Zombie Italia’. ‘Anarchy Road’ and ‘The Good Old Call’ are the only songs of the night to feature singing (taped) and significant portions of the crowd croon along. It is challenging not to admire such nostalgic unabashed worship of John Carpenter, Brian De Palma soundtracks among other auteurs and mentally retreat to a simpler time a few decades back. Brut’s face does not appear to betray any emotion all night while the live guitarist cannot resist moving in time to the tempos.
The final song is a cover of Michael Sembello’s quintessentially ‘80s ‘Maniac’, well-executed and strikes a positive chord with the fans. After this number, the band leaves the stage while the audience are thirsty for more. Unfortunately, the promptness of the venue’s lights shine out and just how quickly time has evaporated strikes the punters. Fans of synthwave should do their best to catch Carpenter Brut at a show. The addition of live members is a superb idea and judging by the number of global gigs commendably sold out some period in advance, it is better to act sooner rather than later.