[Kompakt; 2016]

Styles: phase, sweep, boosters, techno
Others: Hot Chip, The Field, Jagwar Ma, Poolside, Washed Out

It’s already past me. A slipping pop, snappy synth following, a glint of an idea hidden in offbeats. WEVAL is a groovy body with no hard shapes, techno-edged funk cut to gourmet size by a fidgety editor. An impatient body, clutching at a chorus that never fully comes. WEVAL is synth pop aiming for the point and getting trapped in its own desires, wandering off a cliff into a self-possessed and overly finessed nu-funk, kinetic headphone music with an obsessive front and seemingly no end goal. Bulbous chords and breathy, double-tracked voices get sunk and resurface, start a round robin of interruptions as tightly mic’d percussion aligns for a sensitive bass music, and then the whole thing sidesteps the obvious route and folds in on itself. Deceptively melodic at first glance, this album is onset in its climbs of aimless emotion by a dissective bout of engaging diversions, adept studio tricks, and binaural drum fills that ultimately compose its true identity.

Duo Harm Coolen and Merjin Schotte have recorded a visceral but enticing approach to pop music, a warm, personal expression of psuedo-organic techno-pop that dodges monotony with carefully truncated time signatures and a playfully spry studio mix. This isn’t their first release, but it’s no doubt their best so far, a fully realized space of shimmering notes and subtle signs toward a masterful production and shared creative mindset of defying expectation. I feel this record move often at first toward beat music or The xx-style deep moods via some fixed chord structures, but it smartly preempts its own direction, nose-diving into one of many phase-distorted tantrums or ends as a perfect tease of potential before things get too self-satisfied or, frankly, human.

Where similar producers might feel inclined to elevate the rather unattached lyrics and dry melodic pull of the core “song,” WEVAL put forth a fairly simplistic concept on this album made nonetheless difficult to accomplish through the work required. They use their base loops as mantras to build on, smartly utilizing sound modulation to connect musical passages by relaying them through the appropriate psychedelic channels, maintaining an overall ethos and emotional spirit that’s impersonal to the moment but breeding potential in endless new diversions. This means a lot of careful coordination between voice and noise and nice gear and drums, and WEVAL is syncing these elements with an ease and shapelessness that seems unfair. Loops overlap on accident and fall into place; seemingly unambitious bars are undercut by cheeky polyphony; and a balance is struck between dispassionate techno and involved personal pop on a dime.

Strangely enough, it’s enough. I could move on “I Don’t Need It” for days, blasted phase and fluttering bass pulling me in and around a shuffling kick, still too short at six minutes with its forever resetting pleasure circuit. But it’s one face of many — there’s also “Days,” its lost singer and faint finger snaps a mystery to dissect; “The Battle” in its weirdly funky apprehension; the immensely walkable “You Made It” suite; and the pensive self-reflective closer “Years To Build.” If a self-titled really is about identity, then the closer’s notions of putting so much work into something stand clear: the duo has put a ton of sweat into making this thing shine like a polished stone, and the effort does not go unappreciated. The music contorts itself and decorates in just the right ways, completely owns its spaces and changing temper, alive with impossible movements for evolving pleasure-seekers.

Links: WEVAL - Kompakt

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