Soulwax have been on my radar since I chose to not go and see them at Bilbao BBK 2016, I overheard crashing drum and arty synth enhanced by a bright light show that created a shuttle bus journey full of sadness and regret. My friend’s review of the gig involved a lot of arm waving and repetition of the word drums, later adding they had a very interesting setup. This setup remained the same in the studio, where they recorded FROM DEEWEE in one take. Soulwax envisaged an equation, arty + exciting + experimental recording style = arty + exciting + experimental music. They weren’t entirely wrong.
They have shied away from creating original music as Soulwax for 12 years, while focussing on remixes and being 2manydjs amongst other side projects. There is less of the electro rock and high octane Nite Versions energy, but a lazier, hazier and matured departure from their previous sounds. There are limited standout moments on the album, instead sounding mostly like one big long song, which is to be expected when recorded in such a way. The use of three drummers keeps rhythm tight and interesting, especially noticeable on ‘The Singer Has Become a Deejay’ and ‘Trespassers’ both semi-effective rhythmic experiments that sadly don’t quite amount to their potential. The album version of the name and basis of their recent conceptual tour ‘Transient Programme for Drums and Machinery’ comes in at over 6 minutes, but feels uninspiring and unnoticeably over in seconds.
The album should really start with the tirade of drums opening ‘Missing Wires,’ which moves seamlessly to ‘Condition of a Shared Belief’ and ‘Is It Always Binary,’ impressive works of drum and electronic precision that bafflingly avoid tormenting editing and painful layering in their one take system. The only distinguishable highlight is the couplet of ‘Do You Want to Get in Trouble’ and ‘My Tired Eyes,’ a thumping festival pleaser into a friendly electro-pop oscillator with an actual catchy chorus. It’s odd that the strongest moments of an act that labour toward difference, are moments which sound like a fresher Soulwax, who simultaneously concede to current trends.
The Belgian duo have returned to Soulwax after 12 years with a recording that took just under 50 minutes. The use of three drummers adds to the rhythmic intrigue of the album, which overall falls a little bit flat. On FROM DEEWEE the Dewaele brothers sound like a poor man’s LCD Soundsystem, where unlike their superior’s, it’s the interesting and refreshing ideas which somehow don’t quite hit the mark. It’s a challenging electronica experiment and concept, that wants you to revel in it’s relaxed quirkiness, but will likely polarise listeners into overly bored and overly inspired sectors. Arty + exciting + experimental recording style = not very arty + underwhelming +slightly experimental music.
Listen: Missing Wires, Do You Want to Get in Trouble, My Tired Eyes