Maarten Devoldere is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, known for being co-lead vocalist and one-half of the core songwriting duo behind the critically applauded Belgian indie rock outfit and JOVM mainstays Balthazar. Devoldere is also the creative mastermind behind the equally applauded solo recording project Warhaus.
With Warhaus, Devoldere further cemented a reputation for crafting urbane, literate and seemingly decadent art rock with an accessible, pop-leaning sensibility. It shouldn’t be surprising that Devoldere’s Warhaus debut, 2016’s We Fucked A Flame Into Being derived its title from a line in DH Lawrence’s seminal, erotic novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Thematically, We Fucked A Flame Into Being touched upon lust, desire, the inscrutability of random encounters, bittersweet and regret with the deeply confessional nature of someone baring the deepest recesses of their soul.
Devoldere’s sophomore Warhus effort, 2017’s self-titled album saw the acclaimed Belgian artist thematically moving away from decadence, lust and sin towards earnest, hard-fought and harder-won love — with much of the material being informed by his relationship with vocalist Sylvie Kreusch. The recording sessions were much more spontaneous and heavily influenced by Dr. John‘s Night Tripper period with the album’s material featuring voodoo rhythms and New Orleans jazz-styled playing, despite the fact that his backing band wasn’t known for being jazz musicians.
The Belgian songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s third Warhaus album, Ha Ha Heartbreak is slated for a November 11, 2022 release through Play It Again Sam. Ha Ha Heartbreak‘s material was written during a three week stay in Palermo. All Devoldere needed was the solitude of a hotel room, a guitar, a microphone and a recently broken heart.
The sorrow was too difficult to handle, so he went to Sicily to escape. But as it always turns out, those who try to outrun life and heartache quickly run into themselves. But the album sees Devoldere wrapping his sorrow into hooks, instant singalong choruses and irresistible melodies. Sonically, the material is light yet lush featuring strings, sensual vocals, horns and even playful piano parts. The end result is an album that’s a deep and moving emotional exploration yet something musically very rich.
So far I’ve written about two of the album’s singles:
Album opening track and first single “Open Window,” which marked the first bit of new Warhaus material in five years. Centered around Devoldere’s brooding baritone, strummed acoustic guitar, a Quiet Storm-like groove, twinkling piano and a gorgeous, cinematic string arrangement, making it the sort of song that you can gently sway along to with eyes closed while drifting off into your own nostalgia-induced dreams or delusions.
In the case of “Open Window,” the song thematically is rooted in a heartbroken delusion that should feel painfully familiar to almost all of us — the delusional hope that the breakup isn’t permanent, that your now ex has just temporarily lost their minds, and will come back to you soon. But sadly, in the end, it’s all vapor and blind, foolish, prideful denial. “’Open Window’ is about keeping reality at bay in that comfortable bubble of denial. Definitely my favourite stage of heartbreak,” Delvodere explains.
“Desire,” Ha Ha Heartbreak‘s second single is a lush and sultry bop centered around mournful horns, soaring strings, an infectious, two-step inducing groove and twinkling keys paired with Devoldere’s breathy baritone. The song’s narrator desperately addresses just about every god he can imagine for answers, but as he says in the song, “No matter what I turn to/it’s failing me.”
Ha Ha Heartbreak’s third and latest single “Time Bomb” continues a remarkable run of slow-burning lush and sultry material, that features subtle elements of jazz, film scores, Quiet Storm soul and art pop. Much like its predecessors, “Time Bomb” sees its narrator dealing with the devastation of a breakup and its aftershock on both parties. But with the new single, its heartbroken narrator is left to wonder “but why” without any answers or closure.
“What to do if you stumble upon a time bomb? You’ll probably see 3 wires. If there are no red wires, cut the second wire,” Devoldere writes. “Otherwise, if the last wire is white, cut the last wire. Alternatively, if there is more than one blue wire, cut the last blue wire. If none of the above, cut the last wire then the first. Learn this by heart. Listening to my new song won’t save you at all. Love, Warhaus.”
Set Michiel Venmans in and around Palermo, Italy, the accompanying video for “Time Bomb” follows Devoldere through a cinematic and lonely journey of the area: We eventually see shaving and brushing his teeth, putting his laundry out to dry on a line and broodingly daydreaming on his terrace. We then see him watching TV at a cafe with an older gentlemen, who he befriends. We also see him wandering the Italian city’s streets — eventually sitting around older gentlemen. It’s a gorgeous and surreal depiction of heartbreak and loneliness.
Devoldere will be embarking on a handful of UK and European Union dates. Check them out below.