New types of music are needed even if they hark back to the past, synthwave is officially a thing now and boy is it big. If you grew up on a diet of horror, action and post-apocalyptic films many of them Italian during the 80’s it is a style that is hardly new but it is only lately that producers and bands have started adopting to great success. With the likes of Perturbator, GosT and Hollywood Burn our promo lists have given us access to hearing some of these artists and they have injected a much needed vitality to several of our writers ears. I grabbed Carpenter Brut’s trilogy album as soon as I could get my hands on it but shows had up to now eluded me due to the fact they seem to sell out almost instantly. This one at Koko which is hardly a small venue was sold out a month ago but a press invite came and was certainly not something I was going to say no to. Once inside the venue it was interesting just watching people filter through the doors and start to fill the place up. There was an expected smattering of metal-heads, goths and punks, no shortage of hipsters and lots of straight looking muggles, one would not normally expect to see at the sorts of shows we normally write about
The 80’s theme is very much carried over into the sounds that are playing over the PA and it is cheesy as hell courtesy of the likes of Van Halen and Whitesnake so people were either laughing and getting into the spirit or cringing in the corner. There is still a bit of space to move about in as support band Youth Code explode violently on stage. They introduce themselves as from California and here to “fuck things up.” This they certainly do in style. He, Ryan George crafts massive slabs of noise from keyboard console hitting us with driving beats as he occasionally yells. She, Sara Taylor bounces like a maniac and abrasively shouts her head off. It’s instantly energetic and the sonic whoosh from the venue’s powerful sound system almost knocks me off my feet where I am standing in the vicinity of the speaker. Aggro levels and lighting combine and then suddenly things cut out. Sara takes over straight away telling us that the same thing happened last time they played the venue and saves the day by having a laugh about it all. Firing into the next number their EBM styled onslaught gains momentum with some retro beats along with a modern sheen and bounce to it all, the audience certainly appears to approve and so do I. Apparently it is Sara’s 33rd birthday, the age Christ died at she informs. He got crucified; she got cake, which is far more civilised. Then they got “angry again” and the vocalist is off the stage and crowd surfing creating a memorable anniversary experience for her and everyone watching.
By now it is practically impossible to get a viewpoint or indeed a drink here, the venue is rammed. Everyone sings along to Toto classic Africa as I wonder if I have dropped through a hole into hell but finally Carpenter Brut come on to a sound that is absolutely massive. I balance drink and try to get a view, luckily being a seasoned pro at this sort of thing I get toward the front so I can see the stage. To my left the guitarist is going mental and prior to the gig I had been informed by someone that he plays with Deathspell Omega (who ironically never play live). I am not sure on the validity of this but it is certainly interesting if true. The live drummer thuds away at the back and to stage right is the maestro that is Mr Brut himself controlling everything from his sound lab. It sounds like Mozart on crack and the reaction of the happy clappy audience is great to watch as they literally lap it all up, thrusting hands in the air like they are at an intergalactic rave and forming chants to sing along even if there are no vocals. The neon lighting panel behind the band’s cocktail lights go into overload like a nightmarish Nicolas Winding Refn film and we are warned to ‘Beware The Beast’ claws are out. This is cheesy as hell as is the new concept album Leather Teeth which it is from. Personally I prefer the horror themed stuff and this is one band that don’t need vocals even if they do belong to the beastmilk mouthpiece of Mat McNerney (sampled here). It certainly is a long way from Dodheimsgard and Code but what you gonna do, dance of course. The great John Carpenter is here in more than name and we are off to New York and there is no escape as the president is woken and skewed rhythms loop out and uncoil from the speakers. They live and teeth grind, bubblegum is chewed and asses kicked. The visual stimuli goes wild and everyone bounces around.
I had watched Luc Besson’s Le Dernier Combat the night before this and honestly felt like I could have walked into the post-apocalyptic scenario at times although in vivid colour rather than black and white. Another new one comes further down the line and Cheerleader Effect adds another sampled vocal performance from the unmistakable mouthpiece of Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg and with him on board you can tell just how hip and with it this lot are. At one point I do a double take as playing spot the film notice that they have gone and resurrected Ricou Browning cult classic Mr No Legs from 1979. The screen goes on to warn us about the dangers of heavy metal and how it can affect the children. Some mother no doubt weeps as her son is caught up in the devil’s music and crowdsurfs over the top. We fly too just like Airwolf and the spirit of Glen A Lasrson is strong here, feet stomp and everyone chants along. Giallo terror time, there’s a Sex Killer On The Loose and the pounding beats drive us into a frenzy before we dig dat funky music of Disco Zombi Italia. It’s a Jan Hammer styled disco inferno baby as it struts over the Brooklyn Bridge faster than you can say Fulci lives. We think it is over but the band plough into an encore rather than leave the stage. A circle pit opens as the sound of galaxians invade courtesy of sleazy ‘Le Perv’ I was not aware that they play a certain cover at the end and had all but forgotten the existence of Michael Sembello 83 stomping anthem Maniac. It quickly comes flooding back and everyone knows the words cue a massive sing along and everyone filing out sporting cheesy shit eating grins. I expect that number to still be going round in my head for several weeks but the memory of the show will last a lot longer. Consider me well and truly addicted to the cult of synthwave.