FROM DEEWEE was, allegedly, recorded in one take. That naturally seems quite impressive, and certainly strikes an initial interest, but upon realising that everything sounds so utterly flat and lifeless, one recognises that Soulwax have done themselves no favours by constructing the record as a continuous, mundane stretch of music.
At best, FROM DEEWEE incites a gentle nod of the head, and very little else. Most of tracks sound like half-finished instrumentals from a Hot Chip album, and Soulwax rarely strive for much more than that. Songs often start with a groove that could quite easily develop into something interesting, but instead stagnate into nothing. The drum fills on “Is It Always Binary” are great once, maybe twice, but not after a dozen times, and this is a problem that often repeats itself. Rhythmic repetition attempts to disguise a very obvious lack of development in ideas.
“Missing Wires” feels like the only song that is even close to being finished, and it’s hardly a fucking stormer. There’s a good tune in “Trespassers” somewhere, though I doubt Soulwax were ever interesting in finding it. Twelve years on since Nite Versions, and the once-exalted duo return with a record that sadly suggests that their best days are well and truly behind them.
4 out of 10
Soulwax have been a band on my ‘must see’ list for quite some time. If I turned up for the duo to only play tracks from FROM DEEWEE, I’m afraid to say I think I would be largely disappointed. It’s hard not to compare FROM DEEWEE to Nite Versions as the disparity quality is so large, but I’ve been hard pushed to pull the same level of enjoyment from this as I have their illustrious record from 2005.
This is not to say that Soulwax’s latest release has no redeeming qualities. There is an abundance of rich tones and timbres, and by Moog do they know how to use an analogue synthesiser. Unfortunately, FROM DEEWEE falls down on the arrangements. It never quite seems to reach a pinnacle; in fact, it doesn’t really go anywhere. This is exemplified in tracks like “Is It Always Binary”, starting as a promising hark back to old Soulwax, but never building on the drum fills and sampled staccato voice work. It ends up feeling like a 3:29 minute intro.
This flatness is mirrored across the whole album, and can end up becoming rather tiresome, and almost frustrating. It feels as if FROM DEEWEE is screaming out for a good remix or two. However, in its current state, it is disappointingly drab. I don’t think I will be returning to it any time soon.
4 out of 10
There were many moments on FROM DEEWEE that piqued my interest. Unfortunately, each moment was combined with a hope that a turning point in the album was about to reveal itself, which was often followed by disappointment when it didn’t arrive.
As a long time fan of Soulwax, I can certainly tease out the better points of their latest release. Between the Kraftwerkian style of a majority of this album, the fact the entire album was recorded in a single take, or the plethora of synth patches and contortions that make for some of the finer moments on the album, there’s no doubt that a lot of thought and expertise has gone into the recording.
However, what seems to be missing, or may have been lost, is the energy and development that makes any synthpop album an exciting and enjoyable listen. Whether it was the rigorous planning required to achieve the spotless single take, or the focus and dedication given to the separate synth lines rather than the overall tracks, something has drained the album of its energy. As a listener, this means that focussing on the album is somewhat exhausting, as passages are left to hang, undeveloped, for too long.
The net result is an album that almost invites the listener to put the album to the back of their heads, and that’s a shame given there are some mentionable moments to be found across the album’s 50-minute play time. “Is It Always Binary” has some quirky vocal samples that accent proceedings; “Do You Want to Get into Trouble?” has a muted synth in its bridge which I can’t help but love; “Here Come the Men in Suits” introduces itself with a raw, grizzled growl and an edge to its atmosphere. But none of this stays around long enough to impact the overall album. It’s with great regret that I cannot submerge this album in praise, but I don’t see myself returning to it at all. I think I’ll go back to Nite Versions.
5 out of 10