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Soulwax - Essential

Soulwax – Essential

Never ones to think inside the box, David and Stephen Dewaele, better known as the Belgian beat makers Soulwax, have decided to put their stamp on the BBC Radio 1 Sessions by being the first to record an hour-long set for the show rather than mixing existing material. Recorded in two weeks, its theme ‘Essential’ runs throughout the album, with vocal tangents exploring different aspects of the term. Overall, it’s a very clever, incredibly captivating piece of work which is remarkably easy to get lost in again and again. Its beat-driven electronica has enough variation and thematic clout to keep it engaging and enjoyable. Essential is a slinking, Europop-style record brimming with zany melodies that clang, ripple and at times sparkle, in a breezy yet clinical manner.

Though the intro on track one doesn’t reflect the rest of the album, it sparkles into anarchic life with its 2manydjs-style opening of: “Hello, this is Soulwax.” ‘Essential Two’ quickly establishes the Soulwax style of nimble and proficient percussive and synth rhythms which meticulously designs and moulds a more dynamic tone for the album as a whole. It’s this middle section, with ‘Essential Two’, ‘Three’ and ‘Four’, where the record begins to meander through slow deep passages, as well as escalating effortlessly with added layers of incisive fills in an iconically produced way. This constant change in tempo, with the added vocal interludes (providing much of the narrative style throughout) provide the album with a touch of consistency without it sounding overly produced; no surprise given that Soulwax have become the masters of the remaster, magnificently remixing songs for the likes of Daft Punk, Tame Impala and Gorillaz in recent years.

Further on, ‘Essential Five’ stumbles into darker territory while ‘Essential Six’ and ‘Essential Eight’ find a driving house groove that brings the entire record to life. It’s ‘Essential Ten’, however, that is the most impressive song on the record. With its slow but dark build punctuated with acoustic mandolin, strong percussion and a driving bassline rising, it’s a layered piece of electronica that hits peaks and troughs with grace and style. It’s an encapsulation of the entire record: interesting music with depth and range, as well as beat-laden production and a slick, vast soundscape to probe even the most inquisitive mind.

One complaint of Essential is that it does rather feel more like a mixtape than a complete, overarching narrative record. In that sense, Essential is less of a complete album and more of a creative concept for a live set come to life. At an hour long, too, this does at times feel more like an album that will happily soundtrack a night out rather than to religiously preside over. This is essentially an album made for crowds to lose themselves too and, at the end of the day, isn’t that what Soulwax is, and indeed dance music, all about? There’s certainly enough here for any fan of dance music, as well as enough class and credibility to keep any Soulwax fan happy.

Liam McMillen

Website: soulwax.com
Facebook: facebook.com/soulwax
Twitter: twitter.com/soulwax

 

 


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