Komputer are North London beat merchants Simon Leonard andDavid Baker. Their band name is very appropriate given that their musicrevolves around the manipulation of complex electronic rhythms. For roughreference points think Aphex Twin and Warp Records, both leaders ofthe musical avant garde. Komputer’s 1998 World Of Tomorrow debut was afaithful re-interpretation of the seminal Kraftwerk synth pop sound, andnow, four years on, Market Led shows itself to be the product of a longperiod of musical experimentation and research.
Immersing themselves in the bleeding edge world of contemporaryelectronica, Leonard and Baker took inspiration from the likes of Pole,Matmos and Oval. They also took an enlightenedattitude to technology by streamlining their studio to a portable two blackboxes and sampler, whilst adopting a ‘live in the studio’ philosophy torecording. This innovation is reflected on the album and as the pairthemselves acknowledge, “the basic spirit of the thing is using thetechnology that we’ve got and trying to push it as far as we can to makemusic”.
This heavy emphasis on technology is contradicted though by thesurprisingly organic approach to sampling that Leonard and Bakerdemonstrate. The album title, Market Led, alludes to this idea. As dayjobs, the duo assemble and disassemble the stalls at London’s SpitalfieldsMarket, giving them random access to a myriad of abandoned vinyl from theday’s trading. This has allowed them to incorporate anything from “70sglam rock to some obscure dub thing” into Market Led. On the trackKompaktor they even sample a rubbish compactor at work – not somethingthat would crop up on your average Gareth Gates record!
The sonic invention and trickery on Market Led is at times quiterefreshing. Gaps is composed mainly from the samples of dramatic musicaldrops / pauses of a few ’70s hits, and has a strange, otherworldly textureto it.
The undoubted star of the show though is Mum, where all of Leonardand Bakers’ ambition crystallises perfectly. Hypnotically wistful, mournfulchimes rock back and forth over spitting, metronomic percussion, tostartling effect. Joanna is worthy of a mention too, with its’schizophrenic shift from foreboding, storm cloud thuds to light, sundrenched beats.
Whilst Market Led does at times hit the heights, it is importantto place it in context. It is most definitely not a commercial record,operating as it does in the marginal world that is electronica. Recognisablemelody is frequently hard to find and the cold, functional atmosphere canmake for uncomfortable listening. Add in the splintered beats which arestrewn across most tracks like broken glass and it becomes clear that,despite the occasional gem, Leonard and Baker have created an album thatwill appeal only to the aficionados and sonic wanderers amongst you.