Komputer: Synthetik

Simon Leonard and David Baker (aka Komputer) make no bones about their allegiance to Kraftwerk: wipe the vocals from synth-pop tunes like “International Space Station” and “Headphones and Ringtones” from the North London duo's third Komputer album Synthetik (following 1998's The World of Tomorrow and 2002's Market Led) and you're left with electronic instrumentals that sound like session leftovers from Trans-Europe Express or The Man Machine. Strong pop melodies and impeccable execution render that imitative approach more tolerable than it might be otherwise, but it's hard to overlook Synthetik 's excessive derivativeness (“Tokyo (we want to go to)” and “Liquid Gold” echo blatantly “The Robots” and “The Model”).

Like Kraftwerk, Komputer embraces a retro-nostalgic electronic melodicism that's generally appealing (except when an otherwise credible tune like “Blackie” is diminished by silly lyrics like “There's a lost black cat in the neighbourhood… It answers to the name of Blackie”). But the question remains: why ape the Düsseldorf legends' sound when the results can't help but be unflattering? Komputer's songs and Cockney-flavoured singing are decent enough but hardly in the same league with Kraftwerk. Occasional deviations from the template do offer hints of promise—“Gloopy” brings forth a more caustic side of Komputer's sound by adding abrasive noise blisters, and “Satin Traffic” adds digi-dub flourishes to its vocodered electro-skip—but such moments are fewer in number than they should be.

November 2007