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Soulwax - Essential

  • Written by  Cassandra Harrison


When asked if I wanted to review the latest offering from Soulwax, I agreed with an over-enthusiastic YES! Actually, the full question had not been formed.  He had me at, “So, yeah, Soulwax have a new …” and then I jumped at the chance.

When you listen to certain song or a specific band, you might find yourself being whisked down memory lane. Soulwax does this to me. They take me back to 2002 when I was living in Kansas City and had formed a friendship with a guy named Jovan.

Another reason why I wanted to take on this review was for the very fact that I would get to listen to it on repeat for WEEKS before the masses would get a chance. As the childhood playground chant goes: Nyah nyah nyah-nyah etc.

As I sit down to write this, I must confess that I am multitasking like a mother because I am a mother and have lost the ability to do one thing at a time.  It’s a good thing that for my work I draw pictures, so it is with laptop open and ink pen poised that I knock this baby out.

The album was inspired by the word Essential and many of its varied meanings. The intro explains that this album is not a mix of other music created through the two and a bit decades Soulwax have been a thing. All this stuff is new and all this stuff was made within two weeks. Good to know.

The music leads you in by way of giving you a reminder of what it was like all those many years ago to tune into a radio station on your FM dial. Ghosts of stations in their indistinct fuzz blur in and out. At first it sounds like a mess but eventually a pattern forms and I can’t help but delight in how cleverly they have made this pattern from something that initially sounds like chaos.

Listening to their music is like a meditative exercise; I try to pick out the layers, where they pick up and drop off and guess at the pattern and changes. The second track has me doing some kind of embarrassing chair dance – much like a duck bobbing in the water and swaying from side to side.

French words have been woven into track three. No surprise that French is featuring as Soulwax are from Ghent and I believe this is one of the many languages the people of Ghent speak. (By the way, Ghent is a great place to visit. You should go). Of course I’m failing to understand any of it. Apologies to my French teacher Madame Janseen as my two years of high school French study seems to have fallen out of my head.

By track three I have finished the windows of my drawing. I’ve been so entranced by the music that I don’t remember creating the building’s outline.

All of this is going smoothly – this is a great demonstration that putting something together in a short period of time does wonders for continuity. Nothing jars. When the beat does stop after 5 successive tracks, it is broken by chimes. And then it’s picked up once again and takes you through to song 'Essential Seven'.

 'Essential Eight' reminds me of 'E-Talking' from Nite Versions, one of my favourite Soulwax tunes and one that features on at least 3 of my playlists. 

You’ll get yourself educated on 'Essential Eleven' as someone very helpfully lists the many meanings of Essential. No need to dust off that thesaurus or find a handy online version.

This album is everything you would expect to hear in a Soulwax production - its slick electronic pulse pulling you forward effortlessly from one track to the next. There is nothing on here as heavy on the drums as 'Is It Always Binary' from From DeeWee

And here I am, at the end, windows finished and Glasgow tenement portrait complete. I’m wondering exactly what my connection is to this band and the time that they first entered my scene. Here is an interesting find:  At age 23 ½ we are “at our critical period of maximum sensitivity.” Cue Jovan, Kansas City, our afternoon walks and him asking me “Have you ever heard of Soulwax?”

Essential is available via DEEWEE.

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