REVIEW Various Artists ‘Watergate 26 EP #1’ [Watergate Records]

The first EP off of Watergate Records’ 26th installment comes from no others than Jeppe Kjellberg, Tomas Barford and Tomas Høffding, better known under their WhoMadeWho moniker. The Danish trio, founded in Copenhagen in 2003, has delivered seven albums as well as a wealth of singles and remixes since their first official appearance, so it all makes sense for the trio’s contribution to the renowned mix-series to include a variety of own works and collaborations with artists such as Ruede Hagelstein or Artbat but, of course, also takes and edits from other producers and WhoMadeWho favorites. While WhoMadeWho’s Watergate 26 Mix, a 87-minute reflection of the trio’s current musical being, was out April 5th, 2019, the time has now come to release a couple of musical pieces from the mix in full length and glance. Although ‘Closer’, a collaboration with Artbat, as well as Artbat’s Edit of their track Montserra were already released in mid-April, the first full EP, consisting of eight exclusive tracks, will see the light of day shortly.

The first cut on the EP is the fruition of WhoMadeWho’s joint efforts with Ruede Hagelstein, a seasoned producer/remixer from Berlin. ‘Violently Happy’, a Björk cover, a paradox but only regarding the track title as the take in general, despite the fact that four people worked on it, is a harmonious achievement that depicts several musical influences of the artists. ‘Violently Happy’ covers the musical range and depth evoked by the hunting vocals which are supported by a seemingly funky bass line. And with ‘Violently Happy’ WhoMadeWho’s musical circle is completed, for this very moment, as the first tracks ever the band released were cover-songs too.

‘Violently Happy’ is followed by Ruede Hagelstein & Justin Evans’ track ‘Love Over Pyramids’, whose arrangement mimics that of an ancient Egyptian building. The track starts with a solid groove and few creaking sounds and slowly prepares its listener for the subsequent Mediterranean sound sequence, which enters a musical dialogue with raving synth-chords that turn ‘Love Over Pyramids’ into club music tune.

Up next on the eight-tracker is WhoMadeWho’s remix of Alex Schaufel‘s ‘The Day Of Rebirth’ and smoothly fits into the overall track collection of the EP. Based on harmonising synth-elements the remix creates a calm atmosphere, which through the course is never broken open but rather supported as a second synth spreads almost summer-ish vibes.

Following ‘The Day Of Rebirth (WhoMadeWho Remix)’ it’s ‘BlackBlueYellowGreen’ by Concret & Tyu a multilayered piece, elegantly elaborated and finished with a multicolorful WhoMadeWho remix treatment – musically multicolurful, because the track cannot be pinpointed to a specific genre. ‘BlackBlueYellowGreen’ contains disco and house elements combined with spoken vocals that result in a rather uplifting yet driving track triggering the listener’s euphoria in its mind to give in to the addictive soundscapes.

‘Arp8’ by Kenton Slash Demon is just the track you’d expect according to its title. Various synth arpeggios push its way through the arrangement, alternate and create space for new melodic elements to be added. However, the track can be split into two related yet different parts. While the first half of ‘Arp8’ is pushed forward by the selected soundscapes, the second half takes that idea up but drifts into more spherical soundscapes, which are still supported by the arps but function as a counterpart to the track’s beginning. Still Kenton Slash Demon skillfully masters to smoothly connect these synth-thunderstorms and leads them into calmer musical regions.

Clarian has ‘Mixed Feelings’, which he should not have as his contribution to the Watergate 26 mix may start with bleeps but shortly after the intro it becomes obvious that the artist takes the funky route until the listener is introduced to the lead-synth melody that carries one through the first part of the track. After that it’s the vocals that blended in, further supporting the track title’s meaning until they are faded out by a synth-array, which simultaneously marks the return of the formerly lead-synth melody and accompanies the listener till the end of the track.

The second to last track of the EP is from Öona Dahl & Dance Spirit, which ‘Breaks The Stillness’ in the most pleasant way. A crunchy bass line is enriched with almost didgeridoo sounding elements creating a spiritual and pleasing atmosphere. The echoing and repetitive synth-chords as well as the partly interspersed nature recordings emphasize the aforementioned spirituality and add a calmness to the track. Probably the calmness before the storm as the track was used as the opener for WhoMadeWho’s mix.

Watergate 26 EP #1 is rounded off with Speaking Minds & Amarcord‘s ‘Blue Days’ that convinces the listener with its break-beat touch while the synth-melody slowly fades in and twists the human psyche around one’s finger with every further second it sounds. In the course it is accompanied by subtile synth-pads and carefully selected elements to add either variety or drive to the track that surely has, due to its bass line, an experimental approach to melodic electronic music.

The first EP with eight tracks taken from WhoMadeWho’s mix depicts the different yet similar approaches and directions the Danish trio has taken with the 26th installment of the Watergate mix series. The continuous usage of melodically and vocally rich tunes is the outstanding feature of WhoMadeWho’s musical work and turns it to an eclectic listening- as well as a club-experience. The Copenhageners abduct the listener, their audience, to their musical reality by sounding the way they are: real!

Watergate 26 EP #1‘ will be released on Watergate Records May 6th, 2019.

Review by Holger Breuer