Photo: Dennis Branko / Technicolour

Weval Quantum Leap Down Memory Lane in the Cerebral Dance of ‘Remember’

Weval pore beats and static all over the melodies on their dense textural new album, Remember, which only highlights how melodic it really is.

3 March 2023

Weval are the Amsterdam-based duo of Harm Coolen and Merijn Scholte Albers. They met during a music video shoot in 2011 and began making music together, but neither had made music exclusively before. After several singles, Weval released their self-titled debut album in 2016, followed by their sophomore minor breakthrough, The Weight (2019). Where the debut is a homogenous collection of tight, melodic, and engaging minimal techno, The Weight is more developed with its broadened scope, guest musicians, live instrumentation, and a neo-psychedelia, electronic chamber pop feel. 

The particular allure of Weval is the realm they occupy on the threshold of minimalist head techno and accessibility. Their music properly distributes dark and hopeful moods with melodic kinetic microhouse. On their new record, Remember, Weval go down the rabbit hole while zig-zagging between melodic accessibility and bass-splitting personality.    

The album begins with its title track, “Remember”, a slow burner that grows into a beautiful, hypnotic, catchy, and bobbly dance track that eases us into the head trip and Fight Club-like textural mess Remember will turn out to be. “Everything Went Well” follows down the echoes of the title track until it morphs into a distant cousin of Underworld‘s “Jumbo” from the underappreciated Beaucoup Fish.

“Losing Days” continues this spiral trend. It’s a dense, speaker-cracking bass track buried to its neck in texture. However, a church reminiscent organ gives the song a heart-tinkling angelic quality that achieves emotional ascension. “Where It All leads” lightens the atmosphere with its propelling drums and unprocessed, optimistic, bright vocals. We appear to be at a junction point. “Never Stay For Love” imports some of the adored warped keyboard sounds from The Weight while award-winning Dutch producer and songwriter Eefje de Visser sprinkles some Zero 7-like sensuous magic at our dancing feet.      

“Is That How You Feel” is the standout here. It begins with an Endtroducing….. (1996) DJ Shadowesque atmospheric introduction before a massive beat knocks us over. The track is suspended on a funky straight-ahead bass line and a steady over-saturated beat that really digs into the solar plexus. Vocals grab and hook us by the collar and secure an emotional tie. Those Weval vocals always offer accessibility; they open up the song and invite us in, even if the music should tell us off.       

“Forever” is the final song that takes us out of the tunnel again. Its clubbing outer shell and warm, meditative, trance-like inner core fuse Remember‘s introspective and extrospective poles to a triumphant result. The song is like that warm tropical breeze that tenderly warms your cheeks when you exit your local mall. You feel like leaving, you’ve had your fill and been through all departments, but this final gust of incredible warmth makes your feet turn around. Remember both needs and demands revisiting.    

There is a soundtrack and concept-album quality to Remember. Standout tracks work beautifully on their own, but generally, the songs are built to segue, compliment, complex, and relieve one another. Half of those here work best in context because of what came before. Remember is filled with musical cues and snippet-like parts that make you think of all the electronic greats, from Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin to Underworld, Röyksopp, Daft Punk, and beyond ad infinitum. Remember is a brain chart of everything Weval is made of. 

Remembrance and recognition are highly subjectable mechanisms, though. We always remember things and events how we like to remember them, not the way they happened. Emotions are creators and distort our past and future paths, and Weval plays on this.       

There are synaptic misfires along the way, such as “Day After Day”, “Changed For the Better”, and “I Saw You”. “Day After Day” has a massive, heavy, and enjoyable Chemical Brothers beat, but these tracks are essentially just pitstops. They are forgettable but necessary for foregrounding and processing the other material that gatecrashes our thalamus and takes a permanent seat in our mind.

Remember works best when it sticks to simplicity, when fewer tools are in motion at a time, or when simple themes and notes are allowed to float to the forefront of your frontal lobes through washes of beats, synths, and cymbal rush. Interestingly the closer “Forever” is cut off at the end, not allowing it to linger on, but if you keep streaming, “Forever” will segue into the opener “Remember”. This continuous loop of the sequencing seems by design as it ties in nicely with Weval’s stated ideas about Remember centering on nostalgia and distortions of time and memory. Repetition is a key trope, and Weval use it for substantial emotional payoffs.

Remember is a kaleidoscopic, gut-turning, jaw-dropping wonderous journey through the “memorial sounds” of Weval’s Harm Coolen and Merijn Scholte Albers. Nothing makes logical sense, and reason won’t get you anywhere. Remember is a head trip that is best entered with an empty mind. Only emotional chemistry will forge new ways of seeing and understanding here.

RATING 8 / 10