A first album in more than a decade under this name for the Dewaele brothers, Stephen and David, sees us primed but also a little wary given their last record’s electronica-meets-industrial rock blend seemed a decade out of date at the time.
This time they’ve recorded it with same instrumental and personnel set up as their 2016 live shows, in “one take” across two days in early February.
What does this mean for a listener? Absolutely nothing in the most basic sense as there’s no discernible live sense to it. A more useful question is has Soulwax moved on from that 2004 cul-de-sac? That is not so straightforward.
Transient Program For Drums And Machines, for example, has a resonant keyboard bassline and a wave of outright pop in voice and synths, a combination which here feels surprisingly fresh even as it goes the full Kraftwerk, while The Singer Has Become A Deejay is fabulously hypnotic in parts – though I’d have lost the percussion break.
Then there’s the smooth, electro-yacht rock of the album’s final track, Goodnight Transmission, which is a croon meeting utterly retro early synthesiser sounds, designed to help you dream of electric sheep.
But around them are tracks such as Missing Wires and Is It Always Binary, both of which start with busy percussive rhythms but drift into something a bit pallid, and My Tired Eyes and Trespassers which end up feeling like a less grim Depeche Mode.
You could say coming out a week after the new Depeche Mode album may have been a case of bad luck but really, there’s not quite enough on From Deewee to push Soulwax back to the definitive position they held 15 years ago.