Album review: DEWOLFF – Tascam Tapes

DeWolff – Tascam Tapes

Mascot Records [Release date 20.01.20]

Dutch funk/soul rockers, DeWollf, strip it back to bare bones – literally – for their extraordinary new album, Tascam Tapes. Dedicated followers of this fine young group of musicians already appreciate their ability to adapt their by-now distinctive DeWolff treatment and throw genre-bending curveballs at convention with astounding results.

Any true, dyed-in-the-wool artist will tell you they live for those two hours on stage each night and that everything that happens in between is essentially “life-on-hold” until the lights go down. What happens during that downtime has become the stuff of rock and roll legend over the years – what DeWolff did was to channel all their creative juices through a Tascam Porta Two, four-track cassette recorder from the 80’s (plus a few running duct tape repairs along the way) and recorded these twelve tracks in the van, on the road, backstage…in fact, trapping lightening in a bottle at every opportunity.

And the results are breathtaking – mix two equal parts of brothers van de Poel, the same amount of Robin Piso, a splash of rare soul/funk sampled beats, a couple of squirts of battery powered synthesizer and a guitar, and you have a fizzy, fuzzy and tasty cocktail of funk, blues, soul, rock….so much so that perhaps a new musical genre, called DeWolff, is being born before our very ears.

Recording this way is like dancing through the streets in your underwear – your very soul stripped naked for all to see, the sinew, the blood gushing through the veins, the pumping organs – everything on display with nowhere to hide. Indeed, by taking the road less travelled and not the route of using the “studio as an instrument” has only served to catapult DeWolff into the song-writing stratosphere. In the end, it’s all about the songs and then the ambition, devotion and drive to tour that material relentlessly….taking it to the people one gig, one fan, one word of mouth, one drop of sweat at a time.

The story of producing this less than $50 recording is highly laudable and unique in itself, especially in the ever-changing narrative of what it takes to be a successful rock band in 2020, and it’s actually the method of recording Tascam Tapes that lends true authenticity to this terrific collection of tunes. Well-constructed, clever and hooky songwriting will always pull you in close whether you hear it in arenas, subways or a damn telephone box because the essence of the song is front and central, the sonic magnet which can’t be ignored, the ear worm that soothes, excites and warms.

Canned Heat-relaxed, most lekker, best track of the album “Life In A Fish Tank” deserves an honorary place on the Stones’ “Exile” album as does “Let It Fly”, plastered with Kravitz DNA but also with the unmistakable soul-and-roll caress of DeWolff.

Interestingly, it’s the couple of very short, 2 minutes or less, tracks like “Nothing’s Changing” and “Awesomeness Of Love” which add even greater authenticity to the whole project in the sense of it being a collection of song ideas in their most feral and basic state form, recorded in the same way – this is what it sounded like inside the van, sitting around backstage, bare, exposed and very, very live.

“Nothing’s Changing” is this album’s “Big Talk” with a nice playful Brittany Spears type back-beat whilst opening track “Northpole Blues” is just a glorious orgy of juke joint stomp and riff, fuzzed-up ZZ-style before taking the Tascam to the limit of the fuzzosphere.

Blood Meridian I and II are the darkest of the album tracks in subject matter as well as the menacingly ascending chords….these will be as heavy as a concrete hippo when DeWolff plays them live. Fucking tribal percussion/rhythm from the brother from another mother.

“Made It To 27” is a no-holds barred reflection of the harshness of a musicians life on the road, all set to a sinister, surfy Pulp Fiction-ish vibe….Vincent Vega surely in the video to this one ?

“It’s Ain’t Easy, Baby” is just a riotous disco romp, accompanied by an outrageous video which would have had Freddie grabbing his crotch.

The beautiful “Am I Losing My Mind” has not a single wasted line or note, nothing more than what is required to make this a couple of minutes of song-writing genius and a testament to Pablo’s vocals….attack-dog hard one minute and achingly melancholic the next……and a chorus which could have come from Laurel Canyon in the ‘60s.

“Love Is Such A Waste” is just a fucking great urban vibe, which sits around this soul-breaking chorus and almost Zappa-esque, mono-coda. The soundtrack to Huggy Bear doing the walk in Starsky and Hutch……

“Rain” sounds like it was recorded at Muscle Shoals – a little beauty destined to be part of a big movie sound track one day.

Ridiculously retro, ridiculously relevant, ridiculously real……just fuckin’ ridiculous how good these guys are. *****

Review by Mark “Mad Dog” Shaw

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.

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