Wolff Parkinson White's 'Favours' Is an Arresting Combo of Vocals and Electronics

Photo : Alexei Kaleina / Courtesy of the artist

As Wolff Parkinson White, German jazz drummer Jochen Rueckert has crafted a baker's dozen of off-kilter tracks featuring various vocalists on his latest electronic music project.

Wolff Parkinson White


7 February 2020

Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome is a medical condition in which an extra electrical pathway in the heart causes a rapid heartbeat. Jochen Rueckert, the German drummer who's collaborated with artists such as Pat Metheny, Madeleine Peyroux, Nils Wogram, and Kurt Rosenwinkel, has lived with this syndrome and has named one of his musical projects after it. You could say that the name fits. For this particular enterprise, Rueckert steps away from the drum kit and concentrates on intricate, twitchy electronic programming.

Despite his jazz resume, Rueckert's foray into electronic music is not a random whim out of nowhere. He grew up in Cologne, Germany, a city with a vibrant electronic music culture. For Favours, the first Wolff Parkinson White album since 2014, Rueckert has altered the playbook by enlisting vocalists. Self-described on his Bandcamp page as "hard-to-listen-to electronic music", Rueckert eschews the 4/4 time signature, and this time around juxtaposes the tense torrent of processed, rapid-fire sounds with the warmth of the human voice. The results are often breathtaking.

The variety of vocalists used on these tracks is admirable. Georgian composer Natalie Beridze sings on the opening track, "Sand", wrapping her gentle, low-key pipes around the complex grid of blips and off-kilter beats. While more than half of the tracks employ female vocalists, the male ones provide an interesting contrast and come from somewhat unexpected sources. Jesse Murphy, perhaps better known as an in-demand bass player and member of Brazilian Girls, has collaborated with Rueckert in the past (particularly on Ilhan Ersahin's Wax Poetic project). On "What's True", Murphy's raspy vocals – occasionally treated with effects – mesh well with Rueckert's sonic landscape.

To most listeners, the most familiar name on Favours is most likely Norah Jones – described by Rueckert on his site as an "old-time friend". At first, it may seem odd to hear the Grammy-winning chanteuse lending her voice to such an unusual project. Still, her collaborative history is wide and varied, working with everyone from Ray Charles to Mike Patton to Danger Mouse, so this is definitely in her wheelhouse. On "Department of Failure", the album's second single after "Sand", Jones' soothingly familiar voice in tandem with Rueckert's music seems initially jarring. But the combination works well, sounding not unlike a torch singer in a dystopian Terry Gilliam-inspired nightclub.

On "Revolt", Alexa Barchini brings additional jazz sensibilities to the project, but to an even greater degree. Rueckert puts the harsher aspects of the programming on hold in the song's striking, gorgeous middle section, allowing Barchini to soar. Likewise, on "Light Fall Shadow", Amanda Baisinger's distinctive Joni Mitchell-isms get plenty of room to breathe as Rueckert pulls back the throttle. One of the more unusual collaborations on Favours includes vocalist Larissa Hopwood, perhaps best known for singing children's songs as part of the duo Lolly & YoYo. Her contribution, "Little Bird", doesn't stray musically from the rest of the album, and it wouldn't be a stretch for the song – with its innocent lyrical content - to make an appearance on a slightly adventurous children's music album. The song speaks volumes about the lengths both Rueckert and Hopwood will go to step out of comfort zones.

Favours is certainly a unique, ambitious project, and has allowed Jochen Rueckert to take his successful Wolff Parkinson White project into new territory. It also works well as a showcase for some tremendously talented singers, and will hopefully provide a gateway for listeners to discover more work by these artists. In that respect, this wonderful album is – among other things – appropriately titled.






PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.


NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.


South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.


Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.