5 out of 5
Produced by: David Dewaele, Stephen Dewaele
I keep making the mistake of thinking that Soulwax just create, like, dance music. I don’t know why I keep making this mistake. But its repeated over their last few releases: I note that they’ve dropped, then balk at the import-only price, then go look at my Soulwax collection and ask myself how I often I listen to it, then firmly decide to not purchase whatever it is, the put on a Soulwax album out of a need to confirm to myself that they’re not all that… only to rediscover that they are all that and then I’m rushing to make that import purchase before it sells out. And y’know what? It’s always freakin’ worth it.
‘EMS Synthi 100, DEEWEE Sessions Vol. 1′ was even more expensive than usual – causing a deeper mental grind of this first part of this process – because it shipped with a full-on color, thick booklet on and about the synthesizer after which the set is named and upon which all of the tracks were composed. Not only is the album a hot slab of genius – that I’ve been listening to non-stop since I put it on – the book is also incredibly interesting and worth several flipthroughs, both for the info on the machine (and the Dewaele brothers’ history with it), and for the archival photos of the massive 60s-era technology, meaning that each part of this package earns its pricetag.
And I even hesitated a bit further after recommitting to my Soulwax appreciation: I’ve listened to some of the instrument-themed albums before, from other artists, and while they can be interesting, they’re almost always also rather – by design – limited. So would I just be getting some sequenced bleeps and bloops, like a demo reel?
This deserves to be considered as a star-spangled, brand new Soulwax album, for all the pomp that entails. It is a showcase of the EMS 100, but without that context, it still sounds brand spanking new; it sounds like some of the most amazing and exciting electronic compositions of the past few years. This is, after all, a group that wholly commits even when they’re making something that comes across as a bit of a joke, so reading in the accompanying book about how long the EMS can take to program, and how the Dewaeles really had to struggle to fit it with modern sounds (which it allows for, in a way my non-synthesizer-understanding brain doesn’t quite get) you have no trouble buying in to that this was a legitimate project and not a lark, and that project produced intensely passionate and danceable music.
Each side is composed of three “movements,” although these movements are linked together into building experiences, that work together (side A, then B), or separately. Each side has a sort of set up phase, where it starts so minimally that you question what you’re in for, and then an introduction of a beat – instant head bobbing – that picks up and dies down and then – from out of nowhere but in front of you the entire while – intensifies immensely for the grandest of conclusions. I’d go for side A on several spins, think nothing could top it, then go for side B and think the same thing. Then back to side A and feel that way again… Both sides also end with locked grooves, but these aren’t annoying or amusing – for some reason they work as perfect bookends to the programming winding down, and can be left to loop out for quite a while until you decide to inundate yourself with greatness once more by picking up and re-placing the needle.
As per usual from the stuff from DEEWEE, the design is on point as well, with a cut-out cover that mimics the circuit board concept for the synth. It’s a sexy looking record.
I expect I’ll be listening to EMS Synthi 100 for quite a while, and hopefully up through the next time Soulwax release something so I don’t have to go through pointless mental hulahoops before plunking down dollars on some of the best music being made.