With their first studio effort in 12 (!) years burning a hole in whichever digital port much-anticipated releases are stocked in, brothers Stephen and David Dewaele and Stefaan Van Leuven of Soulwax are slated to remain the GOATs of Belgo-international alternative rock/electronic music. Since the inception of Soulwax in ’95, they’ve been irrepressible. They headline around the planet as 2manydjs (first known as ‘The Fucking/Flying Dewaele Brothers’), created their own Beats 1 radio show “2×2” and visual radio station plus app for Radio Soulwax, own an independent record label and studio, co-created a sound system project called Despacio (‘slowly’) and their remixes mostly eclipse the originals (you don’t want to know how foolish I went to their “Standing In The Way of Control” remix age sixteen, there should be lo-fi footage out there somewhere). As from Friday March 24, “FROM DEEWEE” – the duo’s first studio album since 2005’s “Nite Versions” – will be here to lick your earbuds from the inside. We had the privilege of getting an early listen (First notes: it’s shaping up to be a real Soulwax classic. All dancing, all the time, with incredibly rich production and a live pulse. An album no one else could have made.) so let’s get into it!
The new album was christened “FROM DEEWEE”, which is a tribute to Soulwax’ 2 year-old studio and record label DEEWEE (Dewaele, see?). The album was recorded live in one single take – inspired by Giorgio Moroder’s ‘the first take is always the best’ creed – on their enviable collection of synths on February 7 of this year. Single-take greatness, that’s the kind of lore any self-respecting great should have out there before a new release. The recording was heavily rehearsed beforehand, though, should you suddenly feel massively incompetent. But still. A week later, the entire thing was mixed and edited. “FROM DEEWEE” is based on the band’s ‘Transient Program For Drums and Machinery’ live tour from last summer, with the aim to record the album with “the exact same setup, machines and musicians as we had on the road”. Working on the soundtrack for Felix Van Groeningen’s 2016 film “Belgica” also kick-started the album’s concept after experiencing three drums being played simultaneously. The track list posted by the band reveals 12 tracks (and a continuous mix) with titles like existential pamphlets and no explicit feature slots.
In the run-up to the album, track number 8 “Transient Program For Drums and Machinery” was made available as a free download last November. The official debut single, “Missing Wires”, dropped in early March, which we talked about here. It features three drummers playing in sync, somehow resulting in an incredible acid-bass maelstrom. Shortly thereafter, “My Tired Eyes”, “Do You Want To Get Into Trouble” and “Is It Always Binary” were all debuted on Spotify. An early listen of “FROM DEEWEE” paired with the already revealed singles unveils a perfectly synched, drum-heavy crash of the analogue and the synth with an unwavering sense of focus. It will become an integral part of the classic Soulwax lexicon, no doubt.
The striking “FROM DEEWEE” artwork was created by Parisian masters of Ill-Studio. The AKG binaural microphone (a mic shaped like a dummy head, it’s amazing) pictured on the cover harks back to last year’s tour ‘Transient Program For Drums and Machinery’ artwork which featured several figures lined up in profile. The backdrop is an actual reflection of the blue sky above Ghent. In 2016, Ill-Studio also co-created the minimal black and white set design (including a 9-by-6-metre graphic carpet) for Soulwax’ live tour. If you need a refresher on what Ill-Studio does: in our recent talk with Michael Dupouy of La MJC, he called them “the best design studio in town” and “huge and super talented”. That’s a LinkedIn write-up for you. Aside from their creative collabs with Soulwax, Ill-Studio’s eye is best exemplified in their work for Nike, the incredible colour-block basketball court they designed for Pigalle (whose logo is also one of their designs) and the 2008 “Supreme, Maison Fondée en 1994” designs. And if you’ve recently been transfixed by that twisting and turning Bleu de Chanel bottle, that’s also them. Nothing to not love when the best in their respective fields meet in the middle. Merch, please.
DEEWEE is a multihyphenate entity. It’s a titanic physical building and studio in Ghent, sure, but it’s also a label, record collection archive (60,000 records and counting, also digitised with the help of music management students) and a publishing house. They also throw parties. Everything that’s sent out of DEEWEE is written, mixed or recorded in situ by the Dewaele brothers, with each release tagged with its own catalogue number. The DEEWEE building in itself is a marvel of architectural merit, designed by storied Belgian architect Glenn Sestig. Covered in black tiles, the exterior is a monolithic statement. The black and white tiling flows into the interior, culminating into an impressive recording space and the beautifully lit record archive. Previous projects of Glenn Sestig include the Dover Street Market Raf Simons installation (2016) and Ghent’s Club 69. The firm is also responsible for the new Coccodrillo store. Here’s a DEEWEE remix of Tiga to bop to while you calculate how many tiles you can scrape together for your next home remodel.
Soulwax’ international tour, kicking off on March 29 in Milan, is already selling out like mad so now’s not the time for a hesitative pause. If last year’s much raved about Pukkelpop performance and live band tour was an indication, the new tour is looking to be one you harass your mates and offspring with tall tales about. In a statement, Soulwax describes the upcoming tour as such: “With a specially designed stage set and seven touring members, including original band member Stefaan Van Leuven on bass guitar & synth, three drummers – Victoria Smith (Jamie T), Iggor Cavalera (Sepultura, MIXHELL), Blake Davies (Turbowolf), and Laima Leyton (MIXHELL) on synth and backing vocals, Soulwax are taking a micro version of their DEEWEE studio on the road.” Amaze.
If you’re a festivalhead, Soulwax will perform at Sonar Festival (June 16, tickets here), Best Kept Secret (June 18, tickets here), Rock Werchter (July 2, tickets here) and Blue Dot Festival (July 8, tickets here). Check the full tour schedule so far below and get tickets here.
Wednesday 29 March – Magazani Generali – Milan, Italy
Thursday 30 March – Halle 622 – Zurich, Switzerland
Friday 31 March – Live Music Hall – Cologne, Germany
Saturday 1 April – Huxleys – Berlin, Germany
Monday 3 April – Elysee Montmatre – Paris, France
Tuesday 4 April – Paradiso – Amsterdam, Holland
Wednesday 5 April – Rockhal – Luxembourg
Friday 7 April – L’Aeronef – Lille, France
Saturday 8 April – Electric Brixton – London, UK
Sunday 9 April – Ritz – Manchester, UK
Tuesday 11 April – AB – Brussels, Belgium
Wednesday 12 April – AB – Brussels, Belgium
Friday 16 June – Sonar Festival – Barcelona Spain
Sunday 18 June – Best Kept Secret – Hilvarenbeek, Holland
Sunday 2 July – Rock Werchter – Werchter, Belgium
Saturday 8 July – Blue Dot Festival – Cheshire, UK
If you’re faded on the floor and not sure who is giving you life via speaker at that moment, look for two nicely cut suits and you know it’s the Dewaeles on deck. The Soulwax brothers have been working with Belgian made-to-measure tailoring concept Café Costume since they launched 10 years ago for creating their signature tuxedo looks (the pale blue ones are a personal favourite), with the inimitable Alex Salinas behind the lens of their most recognised imagery. For last year’s tour, the band adopted more casual attire, wearing white shirts and grey slacks, and in the most recent press images taken by Rob Walbers, the brothers seem to have unbuttoned with time, opting for more 70s corduroy double-breasted peak lapel get-ups, rollnecks and light summer suits.
By performing on a priceless collection of high-tech and vintage equipment, the Soulwax sound remains imitation-proof. Quoted from the album liner: “Playing on this record are Stephen and David Dewaele, Stefaan Van Leuven, Iggor Cavalera, Victoria Smith, Blake Davies and Laima Leyton. The instruments used are two Staccato drumkits, one clear crystalline Meazzi Wooding drumkit, one set of Rototoms, various Hofner bass guitars, a Macbeth M5n, an Oberheim Two-Voice Pro, a Two Thousand Six Hundred copy built by The Human Comparator, one Oberheim OB-Mx, an EMS Synthi AKS, an Arp Odyssey, a TB-303 clone, a Mellotron M4000D, a Sequential Prophet 6, a Waldorf Streichfett, a Burns Sonic guitar, a Vox Phantom guitar, one Syncussion clone built by Loudestwarning, various solid state Roland, Peavey and Acoustic amplifiers and a wide range of effects, all going through three Trident Fleximix consoles, straight into Pro Tools.” I’m no connoisseur, but even I can tell this is straight up synth pornography.
As Pedro Winter just said on the Colette 20 years anniversary podcast: “They are modern, they are classic, they have brilliant taste, they are generous, I’m in love with them”. He put their 2016 collaboration with Chloë Sevigny on the limited Colette 20 compilation instead of an early 2000s Soulwax hit to highlight the fact that they’re still going strong after all these years. If the peers are excited, the fans are agog. If you were a club kid when the last Soulwax record came out, you’re still one (at heart) today. Or in the words of fan Max Halstead: “U ABSOLUTE FUCKING DEEEEEWEEDONNNNSSSS!”
The new Soulwax album “FROM DEEWEE” will be released digitally on March 24 as well as dispatched on a limited clear vinyl double LP.