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09.04.2019 | Words by: Angelina Nikolayeva

Listening to a Wanderwelle’s record for the first time, I found myself immersed in a dream-like state, as if I ended up meandering through a deep secluded forest, surrounded by nature and drifting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is no wonder, as the duo’s first releases are heavily enriched with field recordings, such as the sounds they captured in Russian, Czech and Dutch forests for their debut album on Silent Season called Lost in a Sea of Trees. Art, literature and mythology are another source of inspiration that plays a vital role in the conceptual bent inherent to the music of the Amsterdam-based artists. Inspired by post-impressionist Paul Gauguin’s time spent on islands of French Polynesia, Wanderwelle tells an alternative story of the painter’s last years of life with their second album Gathering Of The Ancient Spirits. With its name borrowed from Gauguin’s 1892 painting, Her Name is Vairumati is one of the album’s biggest treasures, the lush pads and chirping bird sounds of which resonated the verdant woods of Charlotte Oord at Draaimolen Festival when I’ve heard the duo’s live set for the first time. “A match made in heaven,” crossed my mind while observing the surroundings. The same feeling visited me when I've heard they were bringing their warm sound to our blossoming garden. I met up with the duo in Phil’s cozy apartment in de Pijp and after getting some Indonesian take away around the corner, we sat down to chat about their vision, upcoming releases, and the ominous element in their music.

Phil and Alexander grew up in the same village in the suburbs of The Hague – a place surrounded by trees and close to the beach, rich nature of which became one of the major sources of inspiration for them. They went to the same high school and shared common friends yet weren’t so close to each other until their school trip to Africa. “We were sailing near the Kenyan shore when I saw Phil listening to music on his iPod. It was exactly what I used to listen to back then,” shares Alexander. “That’s how we clicked.” 

At the time, Phil already had some DJ and studio equipment which provided two friends with the opportunity to experiment and expand their sonic horizons. “While fooling around, we’ve learned a lot of basics that lay the foundation for our works these days. Concept played the major role in our productions since the very beginning and after a while we found the way to compliment it with the use of field recordings and melodies. But in the amount of time it took us to finish one track back then, we could now finish a whole album,” the duo laughs. Soon they discovered labels like Silent Season, which influenced their sound a lot. “We didn’t want to alter our sound too much to fit a label and not be able to recognize our music anymore. We still stick to this idea when preparing releases for different imprints,” explains Phil. They made a 4-track EP with a short background story which they sent to Silent Season label boss Jamie McCue. “He told us that his schedule was full and asked to send him the same EP in 2-3 months. We were thrilled about his interest in our music and it motivated us to make another, more mature EP, which was eventually released as Ocean Stories in the end of 2015,” shares the duo.

Their album Lost In A Sea Of Trees, which was released in summer 2017, was the first time they shared their concept with the listener by providing a story to go with the release. “We prefer making albums above EP’s as it gives us more freedom to convey our ideas. It has to be the full package”. They invited Dutch artist Floor van het Nederend to make the cover, which added an even more mysterious touch to it. This quality is intrinsic to every album of Wanderwelle: they all tell stories that are mystical and thought-provoking. “Every album is about decay in a way; decay of people, societies, nature, culture…” explains the duo. “I guess you could say that we use nature to introduce a more mystical and ominous element to people.” Currently, they are working on an album based on the 1900 novel ‘De Stille Kracht’ (Hidden Force) by Dutch author Louis Couperus. The book tells the story where the Dutch colonists slowly get worked out of the island of Java by a menacing omnipresent power. “The only way to understand the present is to know the past,” says Alexander, who studies both history and history of arts. “It’s more interesting for us to make music this way. It adds another dimension to it.”

While the ideology remains fundamental, one can notice that aurally each release is somewhat distinctive. “We want every album to sound different than the one before,” tells Alexander. “We want to be recognized by our concepts rather than a specific type of sound. There are a lot of artists out there who do the same thing over and over again. Quite boring, to say the least.’’ The duo already has two albums finished and ready to be released: one is coming out on Semantica in October, followed by a work for an L.A. based imprint set for release in the first months of 2020. “We plan to make an IDM and breakbeat influenced album as well after we finish our current projects,” tells the duo.

The freedom to express themselves is essential for Wanderwelle, which is why they only play live. “We don’t have enough time to master performing a DJ set the way that would let us bring the desired extent of a personal touch to it yet. We prefer spending this time on practicing our live sets and making music, but that day will come for sure,” shares Phil who currently has his hands full with the internship he does for his medicine study.

Wanderwelle will be performing live during their special Bloesemconcert in De Tuin this Thursday. Tickets are available here.
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