On their stellar 2022 album, ‘Topical Dancer’, Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul tackle salient hot-button issues with sarcastic one-liners and knowing irony; but as she surveys the crowd at Manchester’s YES going sweatily berserk to the hypnotic electropop of ‘1,618’, singer Charlotte is overcome with sincerity. “Wow, I’m actually speechless!” she gasps. “This is beyond anything we ever dared to dream about.”
The Ghent duo met when they worked on the 2016 film, Belgia, scored by Soulwax (who also co-produced ‘Topical Dancer’ and signed them to their label), and their deadpan delivery and sparse synths are reminiscent of the Belgium dance-brothers’ roots in early ’00s electroclash. However, whereas the likes of Miss Kittin and Tiga used their declamatory sing-talking to luxuriate in decadence, Charlotte instead calls out racism, misogyny and xenophobia.
The propulsive opening track of their hour-long set, ‘Hey’, lays out their all-welcome credo. “My name is equality”, Charlotte sings, before unleashing lyrics like “My name is variety/I identify as a person that is non-binary/a pansexual being” which are seemingly precision-tooled to make a GB News presenter’s head explode. The pair’s chemistry is intoxicating and palpable. As they dance around joyously, firing off the lyrical punchlines, they feel like an in-joke everybody is invited to be part of. They also understand the historical importance of the dancefloor as a place for outsiders: ‘Blenda’ reclaims a racist taunt they’ve both faced into a clever couplet (“Go back to the country where you belong/Siri, can you tell me where I belong?”), adding skittering techno beats that are so irresistibly addictive, even hardline home secretary Priti Patel might be tempted to have Alexa add it to her ‘This Will Pump Me Up While Making Life Difficult For Immigrants’ playlist.
Subsumed in smoke, Charlotte strains every emotional sinew on the dramatic electronic ballad ‘Reappropriate’, which comes on like a cut from ‘Ray Of Light’-era Madonna. They show their goofier side on the jittery David Byrne-influenced ‘Making Sense Stop’, where Bolis is given the spotlight with a tongue-in-cheek guitar solo. “You got some moves for us? Can I see some?”, commands Charlotte, further stoking the celebratory vibe.
The multilingual bops of ‘Paténipat’ and ‘Ich Mien’ are enough to encourage anyone to sign up to Duolingo, while ‘HAHA’ sees Charlotte laughing manically over claustrophobic clattering house, like The Joker having a mad one in Berghain. Mass pogo-ing greets the funny ‘n’ funky ‘Ceci n’est pas un cliché, which presents a stock-take of overused lyrics (“I said ‘Hey Mister DJ’…I throw my hands up in the air and I wave ‘em like I just don’t care”). Signing off with ‘Thank You’ – a snarky two-fingered salute to the litany of patronising advice they’ve received from men – they descend from the stage and continue the party in the baying throng. “This is huge for us,” beams Charlotte, before adding: “Thank you.”
And, unlike the wry track title, you sense she actually means it.
Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul played:
Cursed and Cussed
Making Sense Stop
It Hit Me
Ceci n’est pas un cliché