Saturday, January 21, 2023

DeWolff - Love, Death & In Between

I can’t claim to be a long-time devotee of DeWolff, though I did enjoy their 2020 album The Tascam Tapes.  But I do admire the air of don’t-give-a-shit independence that emanates from the Dutch trio.  For one thing, the guitar, keys’n’drums combo don’t sound like some cookie-cutter blues-rock outfit, but march to the beat of their soul-blues-rock-and-whatever-else-they-fancy beat.  And they do it their own way, whether it’s recording The Tascam Tapes with the most rudimentary set-up you can imagine, or in the case of Love, Death & In Between, retreating to an entirely analogue studio in Brittany and recording the whole shebang live to tape, no overdubs, with a crowd of pals contributing additional musical chops to the enterprise*.
Oh yeah, and on Track 5 here, titled ‘Rosita’, they knock out a 16-minute plus extravaganza of
DeWolff pull their finger out
Pic by Satellite June
 soul, gospellated testifying to “the Mighty Power of Love” (their delivery compels me to capitalise that phrase), a blast of uptempo Latino stylings, and even a bout or two of ‘Aquarius’-like vocal uplift.  Or if you prefer, you could focus on the slaloming guitar segments, the hurtling Hammond organ, the affirmative bursts of horns, or the sense of Joe Cocker getting by with a little help from his friends.  There are plenty of elements to choose from in this magnum opus.
But if all that sounds a bit overwhelming, they offer rather more disciplined fare elsewhere.  The opening ‘Night Train’ may not be the James Brown toon, but they do set the tone with a snippet of JB hollering “Ah ya ready for the night train?”  They set off with a suitably locomotive rhythm from Luka van de Poel, parping organ from Robin Piso, and an urgent guitar riff from his brother Pablo who also delivers a confident, expressive vocal, backed up by female interjections.  It all adds up to something upbeat, pulsating and fun, and they reinforce that vibe with the following ‘Heart Stopping Kinda Show’, celebrating the simple things in life in steadier but still thumpingly catchy fashion, full of horns tooting high and low alongside barrelling piano.  Later too, ‘Wontcha Wontcha’ combines snapping drums, brash horns and rollicking keys, plus a trumpet solo and an uptempo Santana-like bridge and guitar break, in an increasingly fevered, and maybe overlong, soul-funk wig-out.
They can cool things off too, whether with the Steely Dan-like subtleties of ‘Jackie Go To Sleep, with its tripping rhythm, jazzy guitar and silvery organ solo, or the Al Green delicacy of the swaying ‘Pure Love’.   ‘Mr Garbage Man’ has a yearning bluesy sensibility, stripped down and with a romantic soul bridge as it hints at the influence of Sam Cooke.  And there’s a spookier aspect to the closing ‘Queen Of Space And Time’, with its minimal percussion, swirls of Wurly organ, and interjections of flute and piano.
But they balance things in the opposite direction too, as they let rip halfway the bouncing, witty ‘Counterfeit Love’ and turn it into an organ-powered rock beast.  And just in case you think that’s an aberration, they follow it up with ‘Message For My Baby’, on which hooting and hollering in the background gives way to an intro of powerful guitar and organ chords.  They back off a bit to provide Pablo van de Poel with more room for a squealing, screaming vocal akin to Ian Gillan crossed with James Brown, before Piso gives it some serious welly on organ, over syncopated percussion, while van de Poel runs some busy interference on guitar – a combination they redouble after another burst of ecstatic church-like hollering, before chucking in a wailing sax solo for good measure.
After over an hour of this fervent soul-fuelled celebration I feel a bit of musical indigestion coming on, even with the periodic palate cleansers of the more laid back tunes.  But the DeWolff boys and their amigos really know how to put this distinctive sound together, and by god they do it with conviction.  I like ‘em.
Love, Death & In Between is released by Mascot Records on 3 February, and can be pre-ordered here.

*Sadly at the time of writing I have no information about the various supporting musicians, who make significant contributions to the album's sound.

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