Over the past handful of years, I’ve written quite a bit about Belgian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Maarten Devoldere, best known as the frontman of two critically applauded, internationally recognized acts and JOVM mainstays Balthazar and Warhaus, which was a side project conceived during a lengthy hiatus. Interestingly, Devoldere’s work with Balthazar was a sonic departure, as the project’s sound could be described as atmospheric, jazz-inspired art rock that may remind some listeners of The Church, Sting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun, Edith Piaf, and Leonard Cohen — paired with Devoldere’s urbane, decadent, novelistic lyrics.
While Devoldere was busy with Warhaus, at one point writing much of the project’s sophomore album in a remote retreat in Kyrgyzstan, his longtime friend, songwriting partner and Balthazar bandmate 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. And during their primary gig’s hiatus, Devoldere and Deprez enjoyed the ability to indulge their whims and follow their individual creative muses — while individually receiving commercial and critical success to be liberating. The duo also found that the time apart created an undeniable urge to work together again, propelled by a broader artistic horizon and their mutual respect for each other’s work.
So when the members of Balthazar reconvened, they did so without any particular plan, just a desire to improve upon their previously released work and to further the band’s story. As they were beginning to write material, Devoldere and Deprez agreed that their new material should have an overall less serious, less melancholy feel while leaning towards a looser, refreshed sound that retained the hook driven quality that won the band national and international attention. “Fever,” the first single and album title track off the band’s recently released Fever was inky and sultry track, centered around a strutting bass riff, stomping percussion, a swooping string motif, a sinuous hook, a twinkling bridge and Devoldere’s plaintive baritone to create a song that was playful and infectious. “Entertainment,” the album’s second single continued in a similar vein as its predecessor but was centered around a swaggering and strutting vibe and an anthemic hook. Sonically, the Jinte Deprez-led song nodded at The Rolling Stones‘ “Sympathy for the Devil, but with some Afro pop-like polyrhythmic percussion. “I’m Never Gonna Let You Down Again,” the album’s third single was a slow-burning, Jinte Deprez led Quiet Storm-like jam that reminded me of Milagres’ “IDNYL” and classic Hall and Oates. As Deprez explained in press notes, “I’m Never Gonna Let You Down Again’ is a breakup song with a twist, a groovy soul ode with a synthesizer, a chorus with a Bee Gee touch. It’s shaking it off, wherever it stuck.”
“Wrong Vibration,” Fever’s fourth and latest single is a Maarten Devoldere song is a superficially a sultry come-on that slowly reveals frustration and confusion over mixed signals. Much like its predecessors, the song is centered by an infectious and breezy hook, a sinuous yet propulsive bass line while being arguably one of the more straightforward rockers on the album.
Directed by Benny Vandendriessche, the recently released video for “Wrong Vibration” features the band’s creative duo in a dramatic, slow-motion theatrical stage performance, seemingly rooted in a series of mixed signals and miscommunications.