Album Reviews

Komputer – Market Led

(Mute) UK release date: 16 September 2002

Komputer - Market Led Komputer are North London beat merchants Simon Leonard and David Baker. Their band name is very appropriate given that their music revolves around the manipulation of complex electronic rhythms. For rough reference points think Aphex Twin and Warp Records, both leaders of the musical avant garde. Komputer’s 1998 World Of Tomorrow debut was a faithful re-interpretation of the seminal Kraftwerk synth pop sound, and now, four years on, Market Led shows itself to be the product of a long period of musical experimentation and research.

Immersing themselves in the bleeding edge world of contemporary electronica, Leonard and Baker took inspiration from the likes of Pole, Matmos and Oval. They also took an enlightened attitude to technology by streamlining their studio to a portable two blackboxes and sampler, whilst adopting a ‘live in the studio’ philosophy to recording. This innovation is reflected on the album and as the pair themselves acknowledge, “the basic spirit of the thing is using the technology that we’ve got and trying to push it as far as we can to make music”.

This heavy emphasis on technology is contradicted though by the surprisingly organic approach to sampling that Leonard and Baker demonstrate. The album title, Market Led, alludes to this idea. As day jobs, the duo assemble and disassemble the stalls at London’s Spitalfields Market, giving them random access to a myriad of abandoned vinyl from the day’s trading. This has allowed them to incorporate anything from “’70s glam rock to some obscure dub thing” into Market Led. On the track Kompaktor they even sample a rubbish compactor at work – not something that would crop up on your average Gareth Gates record!

The sonic invention and trickery on Market Led is at times quite refreshing. Gaps is composed mainly from the samples of dramatic musical drops / pauses of a few ’70s hits, and has a strange, otherworldly texture to it.

The undoubted star of the show though is Mum, where all of Leonard and Bakers’ ambition crystallises perfectly. Hypnotically wistful, mournful chimes rock back and forth over spitting, metronomic percussion, to startling effect. Joanna is worthy of a mention too, with its schizophrenic shift from foreboding, storm cloud thuds to light, sun drenched beats.

Whilst Market Led does at times hit the heights, it is important to place it in context. It is most definitely not a commercial record, operating as it does in the marginal world that is electronica. Recognisable melody is frequently hard to find and the cold, functional atmosphere can make for uncomfortable listening. Add in the splintered beats which are strewn across most tracks like broken glass and it becomes clear that, despite the occasional gem, Leonard and Baker have created an album that will appeal only to the aficionados and sonic wanderers amongst you.

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