Soulwax pulled off a pretty interesting feat for a relatively young band, where they achieved their greatest successes and sustained a 12 year period of touring, production and high profile remixes all without releasing any original music of their own. As 2manydjs moved from fun side-project from the indie rock circuit to cultural phenomenon, the Dewaele brothers became unlikely poster-boys for the electronic movements that first took full advantage of the internet: most significantly the “bastard pop” mash-up movement of the early 2000s and the distortion-fueled mania of the regrettably monikered “bloghouse” style that also birthed Justice.
Though they treated these trends with impeccable craft and created some brilliant, lasting music, neither of those movements overall were really built to last, and they took productive and characteristically wild steps to avoid being pigeonholed as a gimmick act. Between teaming up with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy to design a 50,000-watt touring soundsystem and their Radio Soulwax project, which proved that the pair had an even deeper musical knowledge than their previous mixes could only hint at, they had more than enough plates spinning to avoid footnote status.
It also means that From Deewee (named for the brothers’ Ghent studio and their label, founded two years ago) can arrive without any expectations of what a typical studio album from Soulwax would sound like. Far away from the straightforward garage rock of their early days, From Deewee is an album that mixes post-punk simplicity and studio-rat obsession over sound, as much Manuel Göttsching as it is Talking Heads. Aside from some fancy frills on ‘Missing Wires’ and ‘Transient Program For Drums and Machinery’, drums stay rigid but punchy, though with varying volumes as the individual track allows. ‘Masterplanned’ is the one track where something halfway resembling a classic Soulwax breakdown occurs, with the buzzy riff increasing in intensity towards a 30-second maelstrom of crashes.
Befitting the Dewaele’s engineering expertise, From Deewee sounds like dynamite even where the songs are lacking, sure to become a favourite for those testing out new hi-fi systems. Unfortunately it means that the singing and lyrics, while serviceable, almost seem like an afterthought after a run of sleepless nights getting the side-chaining on a drum just right. ‘Transient Program’ is the moment where the band get somewhat self aware, repeating “it took a long time” before going back to the title ad nauseum. However, at the album’s best, like on the disco-stomp led ‘Do You Wanna Get Into Trouble’ and ‘Here Come The Men In Suits’, they prove to have the ability to create a satisfying, poppy song imbued with humour and infectious earworms.
From Deewee isn’t quite the full-throttle masterpiece fans may have expected, but it does feel good to have Soulwax back as a going concern after years proving their dominance in the remix and eclectic-mixing departments, almost a second chance at creating a debut album for the latest notch in the pair’s enviable list of accomplishments.