A few years back, acclaimed Belgian indie rock act and JOVM mainstays Balthazar –songwriting duo Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez, along with Simon Casier, Michiel Balcaen and Tijs Delbeke — went on a hiatus that allowed the band’s songwriting duo to pursue their own critically applauded, attention grabbing solo projects: Devoldere’s brooding and hyper literature Warhaus and Deprez’s old school R&B-inspired J. Bernardt. And while Devoldere and Deprez found the ability to pursue their own individual whims and muses liberating, they found the time apart from each other and the band sparking an undeniable urge to work together, propelled by a greater mutual respect for each other’s individual work — and a desire for a much broader artistic vision for the band.
When the members of the JOVM mainstay act reconvened to work on 2019’s Fever, they did so without any particular plan. But their hope was that they improve upon their previously released work, show deeper artistic growth and further the band’s story. And when Devoldere and Deprez began working on Fever, they mutually agreed that the album’s material would have a less serious, less melancholy tone. And as a result, Fever may arguably be among the loosest and most playful of their careers while maintaining the deliberate craftsmanship and razor sharp hooks that have won them attention both nationally and internationally.
Balthazar supported Fever with a relentless touring schedule that included a stop at Baby’s All Right. Feeling invigorated from playing Fever on tour, Devoldere and Deprez started working on a new batch material that included the sultry, Quiet Storm-like “Halfway,” a track that found the band continuing where their last album left off — but while pushing the overall sound and aesthetic in an even more accessible, pop-leaning direction.
The JOVM mainstays fifth — and latest — album Sand finds the band fully embracing the soulful alt pop/R&B sound while being what the band believes may be the most cohesive album of their growing catalog to date. “There’s a theme running through these tracks, waiting, restlessness, not being able to live in the moment or putting your trust into the future,” Balthazar’s Deprez and Devoldere explain in press notes. “We’re at a point in our lives when we have to consider these aspects of life, that’s why the album is called Sand – after the sand in an hourglass.”
“The idea was always to drop another album as soon as possible after Fever. It was fun and we wanted to build on that,” Jinte Deprez says in press notes. “We did a lot of things that we haven’t done previously – we’ve never used as many drum samples or used bass synths before. So that was an exciting step for us. It was a very modern way of making an album, due to the constraints of the pandemic and we had to work remotely and converse electronically rather than in a studio.” “I can’t wait to play this album live because on the Fever tour we pushed the groove element further,” Maarten Devoldere adds.
So far I’ve written about four of Sand‘s officially released singles:
The aforementioned “Halfway,” a shimmering, blue-eyed soul take on the Quiet Storm sound.
“Losers,” a slinky, disco-tinged yet sophisticated track centered around Devoldere’s sultry baritone, shimmering synth arpeggios and an infectious hook, but at its core, the song captures the anxious uncertainty of our moment, a moment in which most of us feel as though our personal and professional lives have been in an indefinite stasis.
“You Won’t Come Around,” a slow-burning and cinematic, R&B-inspired track featuring shimmering strings, strummed acoustic guitar, skittering beats and Devoldore expressing a confusing yet familiar series of emotions: regret and heartache that a romantic relationship has ended, relief that the relationship has ended and guilt that maybe they’ve moved on a bit too quickly; or in other words, the gnawing sense that you might be a selfish, uncaring asshole.
“On A Roll,” a strutting yet seamless synthesis of their pre-Fever sound with their recent R&B-influenced leaning centered around Deprez’s crooning falsetto.
The band released a great teaser for the film, a loose live version of album single “Moment” that finds the members of the band joyously expanding its groove and relishing playing music together — all while being a smooth yet cinematic take on R&B.
Sand is out now through Play It Again Sam. Additionally, Sand Castle Tapes will have its livestream premiere on June 3, 2021. You can buy tickets here:https://www.momenthouse.com/co/balthazar-sand-castle-tapes.