Review: “EP III” by Carpenter Brut

As a massive fan of the 80’s in most of its forms, especially musically, I was motivated to write this review of EP III by Carpenter Brut. In writing that very sentence I suspect I have already given away more than is usual in the first sentence of a review.

The first thing that struck me about this album was the analogue-style synthesizer sounds emanating from my speakers. The 80’s were replete with such sounds, and pretty much any band from that era used analogue synthesizers to a greater or lesser extent. Carpenter uses synthesizers extensively, a trait that I approve of massively. So big plus point from the off there.

However, I am not so much a fan of the more modern technique of ‘compression pumping’. Although this technique has been around for decades now, it’s always been something I find a little tiring on the ears. For the uninitiated, compression pumping, or simply ‘pumping’ is the process of making the loudness of the music dip markedly on the beat, so it’s as if someone is turning the volume knob on a stereo up and down in military time with the bass drum hits.

That said, on this album it is not applied at levels which particularly bother me, which is mildly surprising, and I would go so far as to say it actually works in this context.

EP III kicks off with a track called ‘Division Ruine‘ which instantly introduces an arpeggiator, plus reminds you of the days you listened to Van Halen. In the subsequent breaks within the track there are elements of computer game music, hints of Depeche Mode and possibly even a little Duran Duran in places. Combined with the heavy grinding more modern feel of the massive synth textures in between these delicate parts, it’s all rather engaging.

The next track, ‘Paradise Warfare‘ delights with a fretless bass poking through a ballad-like mix (replete with Sax-sounding solo parts that are almost worth of Tim Capello) which is reminiscent of  Shriekback’s This Big Hush from the Manhunter soundtrack. It still pounds the ears with frantic synthetic madness in between the calmer moments however and to good effect.

What is certainly evident is the retro feel of the compositions, being somewhere in between the synth-pop soundtracks of 80s movies (such as ‘Fletch‘) and computer ‘soundtracker’ compositions such as the epic (I repeat, EPIC) ‘Space Debris‘ by Markus Kaarlonen, aka ‘Captain’ (these days the keyboardist in Poets of the Fall). The material flows well, does not linger on a single theme long enough to get boring and has a wonderful vibe to it that will remind the listener of any number of other things, while at the same time standing out as an extremely good interpretation of the genre.

It also takes cues from modern progressive/synth material, in places being reminiscent of the excellent work by Frost, although Frost have a greater guitar presence in their material.

In short, EP III is great stuff, I really dig it, and it’s highly recommended on my part. If this had been released in the 80’s it would have blown everyone’s minds sideways and would have stood above much of the great audio to emerge from that decade.

If you like the 80’s (especially the soundtracker files from that time), synthesizers and an energetic electro-mix, you should certainly check out this album.