I was relating the story of this gig to a friend on the train one morning: "I went to see Komputer at the first of a new club night called Club Robot. The support act was a Swedish guy who did 8-bit music on a couple of Nintendo Game Boys. It was excellent!" His expression was a blend of disbelief and amusement, then he laughed. "Or did I just dream that?" I said. For, upon reflection, it did seem like that. That description sounds like a perfect imagining of an evening's entertainment to me. The reality didn't quite live up to the dream potential but I'm glad I made my way over to the oddly-located Westbourne Studios not far from Ladbroke Grove. The venue is a kind of multi-use site housing several start-up businesses and galleries, a cool bar, and a 'performance space' - which this evening was given over to the new Club Robot.
The night comes courtesy of Earth Academy Records and their band Intelligencia were headlining. However, I couldn't stop to the wee hours so didn't catch them. No worries though, as the main draw were Komputer and, having whetted my appetite via MySpace in advance, William Rickman's Random project. Born in Sweden, but relocated to London, Rickman is part of the ever expanding 8-bit music community. For the uninitiated, that's music created on retro, 8-bit computer technology and videogame gear. Much of that is chirpy electronic pop. Random's stuff seems as much influenced by dance and techno - albeit often still chirpy.
With not much more live equipment to show beyond a couple of Game Boys, I expected this to stand or fall on the strength of the music. But Rickman's air punching, drumming rolling and kicking along with the bleeping riffs and beats was all the visual stimulus one needed. Clearly loving every minute of his creations, his unashamed enthusiasm and inhibitions were in contrast to the quiet guy off stage. This was fantastically addictive stuff. My first real live experience of an entire 8-bit music set and something I'll definitely be seeking out more of in future.
With their third album Synthetik now on sale, Komputer continue to evolve their unique Londoner's view of the world. Everything that Simon Leonard and David Baker have released over the past quarter of a century (feeling old yet guys?!) be it as I Start Counting, Fortran 5 or, more latterly, Komputer has (and still does) stand apart from all competitors due to their intensely personal means of expression. Whether it's the witty yet wistful lyrics, the everyday subject matter, deadpan vocal delivery, or unshakeably memorable melodies Leonard and Baker will always be worthy of your attention. The perfect subject, in my view, for a South Bank Show special. We can but hope.
Tonight's set was a shamefully short 30 minutes (but the setting under London's A40 elevated Westway was quintessentially Komputer) so credit to them for no prima donna attitude and for doing their truncated bit to add their support to EAR's debut club night. There were three old tunes (all from their 1998 first album World of Tomorrow) the remainder taken from the latest. Sporting their trademark red jump suits, the two gentlemen made their way through a nicely varied set (including the opening Headphones and Ringtones).
David Baker's voice was a tad flat much of the time and lacked the melodious charm of the recordings, and the distinctly modest audience numbers may have resulted in less energy being shared around generally. Whatever it was, this wasn't Komputer's finest (half) hour live although, as always, tonight's rendition of Looking Down on London proved that some songs only find their true essence in a live setting. Nevertheless, Komputer on an average night is still essential, and Club Robot (assuming it can attract more punters) if it continues to deliver up such good band line-ups is a welcome addition to the London club scene. 7/10
Rob Dyer (With big thanks to birthday boy Roi for the tip-off)