3 out of 5
Label: No Quarter
Produced by: Thibault Chaumont (mastered by)
Synthwave, as a genre in which artists were working – as opposed to a “sound” in which we might lump certain songs or scores – was introduced to me with Carpenter Brut. Friend-offered urgings of “you’ve got to hear this” had me digging Brut’s Trilogy right away, and also instantly understanding what synthwave was / is. I don’t think that story is particularly unusual, and I think that familiarity I experienced is a large part of the appeal: just as Stranger Things-esque shows and movies apparently appeal to a certain nostalgia switch in our collective tastes, synthwave tickles something similar, with the slight edge of it being more associated with “adult” things like horror flicks. None of this is to say whether or not these switches or synthwave is inherently good or bad – that’s certainly subjective – but I do think it can be somewhat limiting, at least – in regards to music – to my ears. And so Carpenter Brut’s output is very enjoyable to me, but I can’t say that I could necessarily identify the work from others in the scene, or pluck out particular songs from album to album. That is: that limited aural palette categorizes the music in to that familiar pool of sounds and effects.
And Blood Machines, Brut’s soundtrack for the short film, follows that trend. The tracks where there’s more room to play produce the most grabbing beats, but these are like-minded to anything I’ve heard before. Again, that’s not necessarily good or bad, I’d just go back to that concept of limitation – like, this is what Carpenter Brut is “expected” to sound like, with driving beats and gloomy synths, and that’s what we get. It sounds good, it’s glossy, and sometimes it’s slower and sometimes it’s faster and it’s cool, and gets my head bobbing. However, I can’t help but wish for more, and Blood Machines teases that on its shorter pieces, which are essentially cues as opposed to songs. It’s there we get tastes of how the artist’s sound could stretch in to some different atmospheres, and those experiments are intriguing… but they’re short; they’re not whole songs.
Overall, that does mean that Blood Machines might not be Brut’s best album, since the full CB experience is spotty, but it’s definitely an effective score – the movie was made to coincide with Brut’s work, after all – and the tracks definitely fill the need to keep one’s playlist stocked with CB material.