Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about Maarten Devoldere, a Belgian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, known for being the frontman of the internationally acclaimed acts Balthazar and JOVM mainstays Warhaus. And as you may recall, Warhaus isa bit of a sonic departure from Devoldere’s work with Balthazar, as it was atmospheric jazz-leaning art rock that managed to recall The Church, Sting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun, Edith Piaf, Leonard Cohen and the poetry of William Blake — all while paired with Devoldere’s urbane, decadent, novelistic lyrics.
Unsurprisingly, Warhaus’ debut We Fucked a Flame Into Being derived its title from a line in DH Lawerence’s seminal, erotic novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover — and the album’s material thematically focused on lust, desire and the inscrutably of random encounters with a deeply personal almost confessional nature. Warhaus’ self-titled, sophomore album found the material moving away from sin, lust an decadence and towards sincere, honest, hard-fought and harder-won love, as much of the material was inspired by Devoldere’s romantic relationship with backing vocalist Sylvie Kreusch. Reportedly, the recording sessions for the self-titled album was a much more spontaneous affair, heavily influenced by Dr. John‘s The Night Tripper period — with the material leaning even more towards jazz while hinting at voodoo rhythms.
While Devoldere was busy with Warhaus, at one point writing much of the project’s sophomore album in a retreat in Kyrgyzstan his Balthazar songwriting partner, co-frontman and longtime friend Jinte Deprez remained in Ghent, holing himself in the studio, where he indulged his love of old-school R&B, eventually releasing a solo album as J. Bernardt. During their primary project’s hiatus, Devoldere and Deprez found the ability to indulge their whims and follow their creative muses while receiving commercial and critical success to be liberating; but it also led to the urge for the duo to write together again, propelled by a broader artistic horizon and their mutual respect for each other’s work.
Interestingly, when the members of the band reconvened, they had no particular plans, just a desire to better their previously released material and further the band’s story. As the band’s primary songwriters Both Devoldere and Deprez agreed on an overall less serious, less melancholy feel, leaning towards a looser, refreshed sound — while retaining their ability to sharp hook. The end result is Balthazar’s forthcoming album Fever, which is slated for a January 25, 2019 release through Play It Again Sam Records. Album title track “Fever” is a slinky and sultry sunset jam, centered around a strutting bass riff, stomping percussion, a swooping string motif, a sinuous hook, a bridge featuring twinkling keys and Devoldere’s plaintive baritone. The new single finds the band crafting swaggering and infectious pop that’s accessible, carefree, and flirty while being smart and unlike anything else written or recorded by a contemporary artist.
Directed by Athos Burez, the recently released and incredibly cinematic video stars the songwriting duo of Devoldere and Deprez driving around and goofing off in a decidedly foreign and mountainous land. Shot between declining sunset and nighttime, the video is a woozy and feverish dream — the sort that as a photographer, makes me feel envy — centered around two old pals, and their easygoing chemistry.