In a way, Weval—AKA Amsterdam-based duo Harm Coolen and Merijn Scholte Albers—are the quintessential Kompakt group. Effortlessly blending club ready low-end dynamics with sadlad emotional topsoil, the pair produce the kind of pristine electro-pop that reminds us of other Kompakt classics like Heiko Voss' "I Think About You," or "Even Angels" by Superpitcher. Today sees them release their first full length, the self-titled Weval, and to celebrate we asked Harm and Merjin to talk us through exactly what makes each track tick.
Check out the album and the guide below.
Merjin wrote the melody for this eight years ago, and it sounded totally different then. It was faster and sounded like it was made on a cheap piano and there were old school breakbeats on it. We didn't even know each other back then. That's how old it is! When we were halfway through this album we needed a bit of inspiration, and at one point Merjin got his old laptop out and found this. We ran it through analog synths, added the drums and knew we had an intro track for the album.
2. The Battle
"The Battle" started the album. The backbone was made on a summer day by Merijn in his apartment. The concept of the track was pretty quick to form, but mixing the low end took days. It was a track that was all about the bass drum but there was too much low in there and we wanted a more controlled bass sound—which doesn't blow your speakers up if you play it loud! We couldn't make it work at our own place so we had to go to a big studio to fix it.
3. I Don't Need It
We'd just bought a new synth and played about a bit with a bassline which sounded pretty sweet but didn't really feel like it was 'ours' as it were. Then we ran it way too loud through tape and crushed it with a digital distortion plugin and then thought, "OK, this is the album!" That combination of raw bassline and acoustic sounding drums intrigued us, and the result is a track we can listen to over and over again.
4. Square People
When we made this bassline we thought that it was funny but not one that'd ever make the album. Then we added the guitar and those chords and kind of fell in love with it. Playing this one live is great because it's really fun to mess around with. It's funky and a bit happy, but the guitar and those chords give it a sad feel too. That's a combination we're always looking for.
"Madness" is almost an exaggerated example of the contradictions that exist between the two of us. The first minute is Harm and the second Merjin. The plan was to keep it as this dreamy, calm track, something that built up...When Merjin came in that plan failed!
6. Ways to Go
This was the last track we added to the album. We were sat with friends listening to the record as a whole for the last time, and they were really excited so we thought, cool, let's play them some demos. Just for fun. "Ways to Go" was one of them and they immediately said it had to go on the album. So it did.
Merijn made the demo with Romy Day (who was his girlfriend at the time). Normally we chop up vocals till we have a totally different vocal line. This was a different case. She sang the hook, just over a drum beat, and Merijn and Harm made a track underneath her vocal line. For a long time it stayed as a demo, and Roma had a cold when it came to finishing the track. Not wanting to use the demo vocal, we asked My Larsdotter from the band My Bubba (who we met in Iceland on a gig) to dub her lines. In the end we merged them together so you can still hear Romy's original demo hook.
8. You're Mine
Summer's the best time for us to make music. Ideas just seem to emerge quicker than usual. We ended up making "Madness", "I Don't Need It" and "You're Mine" in the same week more or less. Compared to how long the rest of it took—we worked on it for a full year—you can see why it felt slightly weird to make so much progress so quickly!
9. Just In Case
Harm wrote the beginning of this track during a slightly intense trip from Lyon to Tbilisi. We'd not slept before the gig and it took us three flights to get there. Which turns out to be the perfect condition under which to chop up some beats and vocals. The initial demo had these drums getting more and more wild towards the end, but we tamed it down in the studio. This one's really all about those drums.
10. You Made It Part One
We made the album in an old school building, and in the hallway there was an abandoned piano. One night we wanted to go home but a huge storm stopped us from going outside. Merjin started playing the piano and it was still raining so we decided to record it. We loved the atmosphere and tried some things with a phaser o process the sound, but still keep the same crappy sound that it has. It seemed to fit really well with some parts of "You Made It" so we decided to name it 'Part One' and develop the track as an individual track.
11. You Made It Part Two
Part two came in many forms. We had a lot of demos, and every demo sounds completely different. One of the first versions we created was made for the live set in the first place, and it was quite techno-ish and fun, but we got bored by it in the studio. We kept on searching for new elements which lead to more of a trip with all kinds of elements, rather than a standard logical structure.
12. Years to Build
There was this moment in the early concept stage of the album where Merijn got obsessed with vocoder sounds and couldn't wait to make a vocoder track by himself. He became mesmerized by the way it sounded and forgot to sleep or eat. That's the whole reason why we make music, I guess, just finding a sound that's so much fun to play around with that you forget everything around you.
Weval is out now on Kompakt