Tuesday 7 February 2023

DeWolff - Love, Death & In Between (2023)

Country: The Netherlands
Style: Soul/Funk/Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 3 Feb 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | Twitter | YouTube

Only yesterday, I reviewed the new Mono Inc. album, which was a new entry to the German album charts at number one. Today, I'm reviewing the new one from DeWolff, which I see was a new entry to the Dutch album charts at, guess what, number one. Their previous album, Wolffpack, which got an 8/10 from me back in 2021, only reached the second spot, held from the top by the Foo Fighters. There's something very positive going on over there in Europe. Checking other countries tells me that the top two albums in Finland in mid-January were VV and Turmion Kätilöt, both of which I've reviewed, even if I can't find newer data. Suddenly I'm a chart watcher.

I'm going with an 8/10 for this album too, even though it's a sprawling sixty-eight minute dive even further into genres in which I have little background. Wolffpack mixed its psychedelic rock and its southern rock with heavy doses of the sounds of the seventies: especially funk and soul, but even a little disco. This does the same but the ratios are different, keeping a rock base mostly intact but venturing far deeper into soul, funk, gospel and blues. Last time the balance was often between a laid back Lynyrd Skynyrd and Stevie Wonder, but here it's more like John Kongos and Nina Simone. There's a lot of Sinnerman here but with many nods to far less epic music too.

It starts of as it means to go on, as if we're tuning into a seventies soul show. Are you ready for the Night Train? It feels like an MC has given the cameraman approval to pan over to the stage, where DeWolff are about to erupt into motion. And they do exactly that, because this was apparently an entirely live recording, not in the sense of performing on stage but in the sense of recording right into the machines as a band without any overdubs added in post-production. This is precisely what they played in the studio and it feels vibrant for having that approach.

There are only three members of DeWolff, Robin Piso and the van de Poel brothers, but there are a host of others contributing to this one. I count eight of them, whether they're providing bass to the sound, adding vocals or guitar or keyboards, or jumping in with flute, trumpet or trombone as needed, with a special mention here due to Nick Feenstra for a fantastic saxophone solo to finish up Message for My Baby. Sometimes they sound like a trio, plenty of space between the band and the floating Hammond organ cloud behind them. Sometimes they become a full on party.

Because the album is so long, there are a dozen songs on offer, even with Rosita clocking in at the surprising length of sixteen and a half minutes. Only Wontcha Wontcha otherwise reaches the six minute mark, so this isn't bloated, especially given that that one is one of the party songs, finding its way into a full on carnival celebration in song form around the halfway mark. Rosita simply has more to tell and it does that in a set of movements that continually grab us into its mindsets. It's grabbing for us at the five minute mark when it goes quiet and introspective. It's grabbing for us halfway through when it turns into a revival meeting.

Pablo van de Poel, the guitarist in DeWolff and one of its vocalists, has talked about how deep the dives were that they were taking into old soul, gospel and classic R&B, checking out bands like the Impressions, the Clovers and the Soul Stirrers, along with bigger names we might remember such as Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and the Staple Singers. He's also mentioned attending a sermon by Al Green at his own church in Memphis, which he describes as "a life-changing experience, musically." This is Pablo and DeWolff treating music as religion, hurling emotions at the tape recorder to be recorded as waveforms.

There's a lot here, far more than I can do justice to within a sub-thousand word review. I must say that certain songs leapt out at me, but also that none of those that didn't are filler. The weakest song here is strong, merely overshadowed by its company. I gravitated towards the blues songs, a delightful guitar from Pablo van der Poel on Will o' the Wisp and even more delightful Hammond organ from Robin Piso. Mr. Garbage Man is a nice slow blues tune and Gilded (Ruin of Love) is laid back glory in four minutes. I liked the party songs too, when the band went full on church gospel or Caribbean carnival or just John Kongos groove.

There's so much here to enjoy, even if I can't tell you the derivation of much of it, and it's full of an obviously live energy. Congratulations to DeWolff on that number one on the Dutch album charts and I hope you stay there for quite a while yet.

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