Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pipul - Topical Dancer - 2XLP Black & White Vinyl
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Belgian-Caribbean provocateur Charlotte Adigéry and her long-term musical partner, Bolis Pupul release their debut album Topical Dancer via Soulwax’s iconic label Deewee.
Cultural appropriation. Misogyny and racism. Social media vanity. Post-colonialism and political correctness. These are not talking points that you’d ordinarily hear on the dancefloor but Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul are ripping up the rulebook with their debut album Topical Dancer. The Ghent-based duo, who broke out with their 2019 Zandoli EP, are rare storytellers in electronic music: they take the temperature of the time and funnel them into their playful synth concoctions – never didactic and always with a knowing wink.
Their debut studio record – which cements them as a duo under both their names for the first time and is co-written and co-produced by Soulwax – is both a triumph of kaleidoscopic electro-pop and “a snapshot of how we think about pop culture in the 2020s.” It captures Charlotte and Bolis’s essence as musical collaborators and the conversations they’ve had over the past two years on tour, as well as their perspectives as Belgians with an immigrant background, Charlotte with Guadeloupean and French-Martinique ancestry and Bolis being of Chinese descent.
Beyond the album’s thematic heft, Topical Dancer reflects Charlotte and Bolis’s idiosyncratic sound: it’s thoughtful but it bangs. Their take on familiar genres is always off-kilter; songs sound undone or a little wonky; but these are nocturnal heaters to make the club throb. “We like to fuck things up a bit,” laughs Bolis. “We cringe when we feel like we're making something that already exists, so we're always looking for things to combine to make it sound not like a pop song, not like an R&B song, not a techno song. We’re always putting different worlds together. Charlotte and I get bored when things get too predictable.”
Topical Dancer is fizzing with ideas – there’s certainly no filler among its 13 tracks. But above all, perhaps, it has a restlessness, a desire not to be boxed in and to escape others’ narrow perceptions of who they are. It’s summarised by the refrain of their new single, ‘Blenda’: “Don’t sound like what I look like / Don’t look like what I sound like.” “One thing that always comes up,” says Bolis, “is that people perceive me as the producer, and Charlotte as just a singer. Or that being a Black artist means you should be making ‘urban’ music. Those kinds of boxes don’t feel good to us.”
‘Blenda’ in particular references how “I am a product of colonialism,” says Charlotte, “and I feel guilty for taking up space in a white country.” The song was inspired in part by Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book Why I’m Not Longer Talking To White People About Race. “It talks about the colonial past and post-colonial present in the UK,” Charlotte continues, “but that isn’t merely a British or American problem, Belgium is part of that as well.” She says that her home country is likewise “oblivious to a big part of its history” which “results in general ignorance and a lack of understanding and empathy towards Belgian inhabitants of immigrant descent.”
On Topical Dancer, it’s less about finger pointing or being dogmatic about all the things they speak about. It’s about emancipation through humour. “I don’t want to feel this heaviness on me,” says Charlotte. “These aren’t my crosses to bear. Topical Dancer is my way of freeing myself of these issues. And of having fun.”
Bonus CD - 6 Tracks featuring a selection of their "Greatest Hits” (of which none, have actually been hits but maybe in an alternative dimension?).