Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul
Fri 04.11-Sat 05.1120:30 - 00:00CONCERTZAAL
Cultural appropriation 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 on Soulwax’s record label DEEWEE, 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 new studio record 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.
Songs like 'Hey' question the shallowness of ‘wokeness’, while ‘Reappropriate’ is a fluttery R&B-ish song about liberating oneself from sexual trauma. Charlotte sings across English, Dutch, Creole and French, her signature deadpan delivery at times recalling a vogue house vocalist or a Black Mirror-style virtual assistant, giving the album a hypnotic, fourth-world quality.
These are undoubtedly hard-hitting subjects, and yet mischief is a key aspect of Charlotte and Bolis’s musical alchemy, too. It takes a certain self-awareness to include a song about the French pronunciation of Will Smith on the tracklist (‘Huille Smisse’) on the tracklist. Or the moment you first felt sexually attractive: standout track ‘It Hit Me’ details Charlotte and Bolis’s teenage awakenings over a deliciously thwacking industrial techno beat.
In a way, Topical Dancer’s opening track ‘Esperanto’ sets up this tricky balance of irony and hard truths from the off. “Don’t say ‘But where are you really from?’ / Say ‘I don’t see colour… Don’t say ‘nice pair’ / Say ‘I love the symmetry of you’,” Charlotte jokily taunts over the song’s syrupy whirr. “Humour binds us,” she explains now – “it’s knowing how to have a laugh at yourself and with each other. It’s also a coping mechanism that helps us to not be bitter or stay angry.”
Charlotte and Bolis met during the recording of 'Belgica', Soulwax’s film soundtrack featuring 15 imaginary bands. Soulwax’s David and Stephen Dewaele suggested she team up with Bolis to make some music of their own and gave them the keys to their Ghent studio for a week to experiment with their vast synthesizer collection.
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 second single, ‘Blenda’: “Don’t sound like what I look like / Don’t look like what I sound like.”
Charlotte says that casual racism at home is still a regular occurrence at home, from people assuming she doesn’t speak Dutch (the language most commonly spoken by Flemish people) to – as the lyrics from ‘Blenda’ reference – shouts of “Go back to your country where you belong”. “When you experience stuff like that your whole life, you have to define yourself more actively, to claim a place in the world,” says Charlotte. “Asian people too are so underrepresented in Belgium in culture and the media. So our music is our safe space to define who we are.”
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.”
Come have fun with us!
Friday November 4 - 8h30pm (doors) De Vooruit Concertzaal
MUSIC / electropop
€23 (presale) / €26 (at the door)