Play It Again Sam
It’s been over 12 years since brothers Stephen and David Dewaele put out a record – which was, now ironically, entitled ‘Any Minute Now’. Not that anyone is counting but approximately it’s around 6,307,200 minutes since Soulwax released a long-player. Everything can be forgiven when it comes to the duo not birthing an LP in ages; because the brothers Dewaele have been busy with their 2manydjs commitments, providing a kick-ass soundtrack to the 2016 Belgian film ‘Belgica’ and a collaboration that goes by the name of Despacio with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
So, we’ve waited for well over a decade for a new Soulwax album and given how pressing Stephen and David’s work schedule has been of late, it’s perhaps no wonder that they chose to record their much-anticipated return in one take. There’s something enticing in how the album rolls out and with the fact you know it’s been created in one sitting – this gives the album a cool mystic. Although meticulously planned, ‘FROM DEEWEE’ is a representation of the pair’s live show that was premiered in 2016 – Transient Program For Drums and Machinery – which is also a track on their illustrious return to the musical fray; a heady mix of babbling circuitry manipulation and disembodied vocals.
‘FROM DEEWEE’ is the sound of the Dewaele brothers tinkering with a wide range of vintage synths, guitars, a mellotron and lots of drums – the live show consisted of 3 drummers. With all the machines and gadgets at the sibling’s disposal they’ve not scrimped when it comes to strange and beguiling sounds – ‘FROM DEEWEE’ squelches and rumbles with all manner of electronic burbles and is underpinned by, sometimes frenetic, sometimes steadfast drumming. Said drumming comes to the forefront on ‘Is It Always Binary’ thanks to a rapid and deconstructed peppering of precise beats.
By combining organic drum patterns and synthetic soundwaves, Soulwax have forged something austere and mechanical but with a tangible warmth. What the ingenious Belgians have done is distil the sonic equivalent to a house share between Kraftwerk, NIN and Daft Punk. Kraftwerk ultimately are the landlords and keep everything in check – this is where the album conveys a rich retro-futuristic appeal, NIN have been told to behave themselves and not scare the neighbours – at times vocally, you can hear a Trent Reznor like-tone. Daft Punk on the other hand have been given free rein to be as weird as they want and to return to their ‘Homework’ days.
For years now Soulwax have been working to their own agenda and this freedom pours out of ‘FROM DEEWEE’ – you get the impression that not being tied down to release schedules or having to keep the suits at a label happy, Soulwax are putting out music they love making and this makes their new offering more special. 12 years was worth the wait.
Words and thoughts of Adam Williams