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WAAN – Echo Echo

WAAN represents the musical marriage of seasoned saxophonist Bart Wirtz and keyboard wiz Emiel van Rijthoven. As a pair of self-confessed tech nerds hailing from The Netherlands, their bromance was a slow burning one, but nevertheless their eventual collaboration fulfilled a dream that they’d both held close since first working together back in 2010.

The symphonic soul mates formed WAAN – a Dutch word literally meaning “delusion” but in the more positive sense of “living in the moment” – originally as a collaborative live band but eventually came to the conclusion that the creative process was best kept between the two of them. Any other instrumentalists were used as guest session musicians and the pair found themselves running the project in a way more akin to dance music producers. This of course had an influence on the music itself, which the duo wanted to be more crossover and have a more experimental edge to its sound.

By 2018 much of the album you hear today had been recorded, with many tracks being born out of the freestyle jams that Bart and Emiel had engaged in. One great example of that is Chivat, originally recorded as a jam with Bart leading the way on the saxophone and Emiel adding edgy keys with arpeggiators on top. Once the basic sketch of the song had been worked out, the band recorded the final version, as well as a more mellow alternative take that also appears on the album. Singles Omi and KinK sprang to life in a similar way, with the former emer- ging from a sombre Ethiopique bass & drum groove and the latter out of a Dr. John style voodoo beat conjured up during one of the final recording sessions the band made.

Elsewhere, certain tracks had more complicated and convoluted journeys. Lost was born out of Emiel’s confusion about what WAAN’s identity actually was, and it wasn’t until the addition of Bart’s Harmoniser saxophone, and several versions down the line, that it became the track you hear today.

Frequence started as an irregular drum and bass pattern, still in time, but randomly played, and was eventually brought to life with detuned Gamelan drums, harmonised clarinet and saxophone plus a heavy synth solo that takes it from daun- ting and earthy to ethereal and heavenly; elsewhere 1974 is named after its musical structure, and grew from Emiel’s minimal piano, with something of a Philip Glass feel, to so- mething way more epic and orchestral thanks to Bart’s layers of counter-rhythmic sax, flugelhorn, French horn, trumpet and a colossal wall of synths that give it an immense, sym- phonious finale. Hard Cane Bone started with a bass line and an unusual melody that doesn’t really fit the key, giving it a more sinister Dirty Harry type of soundtrack feel; and The Cricketer (a track named after the duo’s favourite pub in Man- chester, England) only found its feet when a guiro – a Mexican percussive instrument made from an animal’s jaw – was ad- ded to give it a more foot friendly feel; and finally in contrast, Open, the last piece of music to be recorded on the album, was written in one session and was more of a collaboration between Bart and Oscar de Jong (Kraak & Smaak) with Emiel adding synths and new session players in the shape of drummer Mark Schilders and Rik Kraak providing bass and “noise” – perhaps the shape of things to come?

The album’s title reflects the relationship between WAAN’s two members. They are the echo of each other’s echo – a symbiotic and never ending musical relationship. The appellation also suggests that you’ll definitely need to listen to this collection of songs at least twice to discover the myriad of subtle details and influences that are on show. Influences as disparate as Floating Points, BadBadNotGood and Eddie Harris. Echo Echo is far more complex than just being a dance music influenced jazz record. Co-producer Oscar de Jong encouraged the pair to play freely as part of a jazz group and then add the electronic elements. As a result the album owes as much to Duke Ellington and Lalo Schiffrin as it does NERD and The Eurythmics!

We hope you return to it again and again.

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WAAN Echo Echo Vinyl