Music

Warhaus: We Fucked a Flame Into Being

Balthazar singer and multi-instrumentalist Maarten Devoldere makes a wish upon a Jim Thompson novel for his debut as Warhaus.


Warhaus

We Fucked a Flame Into Being

Label: [PIAS]
US Release Date: 2016-09-02
UK Release Date: 2016-09-02
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First things first: the title. We Fucked a Flame Into Being is certainly among the most ostentatious names one could choose for his solo debut, but Maarten Devoldere (of Balthazar fame) appears to find it only natural. He chose the title, taken from D.H. Lawrence's infamous novel Lady Chatterly's Lover, because it "was too good to pass on!" Whatever one's opinion of Lawrence's prose, Devoldere is right about one thing: We Fucked a Flame Into Being is a good title, precisely because it draws one's eye right to the black-and-white sleeve art of Devoldere's debut LP as Warhaus. On its own, the cover image of Devoldere with accompanying singer Sylvie Kresuch is not too striking; it most resembles a tabloid photo put atop a tell-all exposé piece. But this otherwise normal album cover has the words We Fucked a Flame Into Being printed on it in magenta lettering. With a title like that, Warhaus' debut advertises itself.

Once one actually puts the needle on the groove of We Fucked a Flame Into Being, Warhaus doesn't stop grabbing its audience's attention -- although the music isn't exactly what the title advertises. The record isn't loaded with allusions to late Victorian and Modernist literature, nor are its lyrics replete with sexually explicit poetry. Culturally, We Fucked a Flame Into Being mines from a time period almost 50 years after the height of D.H. Lawrence's career: the golden age of film noir. The bulk of Warhaus' debut reeks of whiskey fumes and cigarette smoke, and moves with the sultry strut of a femme fatale. The black-and-white aesthetic that Devoldere has built the album around -- as can be seen on the sleeve art and in the music video for lead single "The Good Lie" -- further places Warhaus in the legacy of Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson.

The first five songs on the album, which typify this noirish songwriting approach, are uniformly excellent. The dog-bark trumpets on album highlight "Against the Rich", which also crop up on the swanky instrumental "Beaches", get their sound from Devoldere's unique recording process, which largely took place on a tugboat. (To see this in action, check out PopMatters' premiere of the making-of documentary for We Fucked a Flame Into Being, entitled I'm Not Him.) Groovy basslines make "The Good Lie" and "Leave With Me" ideal numbers for a jazz club dancefloor; that ambiance, mixed with Devoldere's scratchy croon and Kresuch's airy backup vocals, makes for a tantalizing sonic noir. "Beaches" is the sonic equivalent of putting on sunglasses a la David Caruso, which results in a nice bookending of the first half of We Fucked a Flame Into Being. Five songs in, and the listener is already in the middle of a noir that Elmore Leonard could have written.

Production-wise, We Fucked a Flame Into Being is fairly consistent in its old-school aspirations, but sonically it takes a noticeable shift after "Beaches". "Machinery" is a minor take on the James Bond theme aesthetic. Devoldere channels the Rolling Stones circa Tattoo You with the sing-along chorus of "Memory", one of the more successful entries in the record's latter half. Two string-backed reflective songs, "Bruxelles" and "Time and Again", bring We Fucked a Flame Into Being to a low simmer. This record is more about muted suspense than it is bursts of noise -- the trumpets on "Against the Rich" and "Beaches" notwithstanding -- but the album still sags in its last moments.

It's hard to say whether or not a direct continuation of the aesthetic established by We Fucked a Flame Into Being's first half would have made the second half much better. Devoldere is clearly aiming at variations on a theme for this LP's second side, which does result in some successful tunes, "Memory" notably. But given just how tightly written and self-contained the first five songs are on We Fucked a Flame Into Being, it's immediately noticeable when the music takes a turn away from that sonic. This isn't to say that the stretch from "I'm Not Him" to "Beaches" is spotless; lyrically, Devoldere hits some rough patches, such as this metrically and morally off-putting couplet in "Against the Rich": "I've got one hand on a champagne-drinking cunt / I've got the other up the ass of the establishment." Nevertheless, there's an argument to be made that We Fucked a Flame Into Being would have been stronger as a five-track EP, rather than the lopsided full-length LP that it currently is.

Warhaus is not alone in its noir throwback stylings; We Fucked a Flame Into Being brings to mind the 2013 debut of New Zealand crooner Willy Moon, the "Wu-Tang meets Sinatra" LP Here's Willy Moon. Moon and Warhaus diverge in on the matter of production technique; while Devoldere aimed to recreate the mood and acoustics of a '50s jazz club, Moon slathered Here's Willy Moon with a glossy coat, illustrating with a heavy hand his "old is new again" approach. Some differences aside, Moon and Warhaus illustrate that there really is something eternal about the sound of noir. Whether repackaged in a pop gloss (Moon) or revived with plumes of cigar smoke (Warhaus), music noir is still ripe for exploration. Devoldere takes an admirable step in that direction with We Fucked a Flame Into Being, an imperfect first outing that nonetheless shines with the promise of something better ahead.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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