This is probably my favorite review, along with de standaard article. It is wonderful when people “get” it, or when they describe your personal work as you want it to be described.
Wixel - Somewhere Between the Sun & the Moon
Over the past few years, Wixel (Belgium’s Wim Maesschalck) has been quietly causing ripples in the electronic sea. First came Heart, the endearingly placid debut album in the hand-assembled sleeve, followed swiftly by the companion EP, Herfst. Then Wim decided to start his own independent label, Slaapwel (“Sleep well”), filling a niche that nobody knew existed: “music to fall asleep to.” To date, contributors have included Jasper TX, Steinbruchel, Wouter van Voldhoven and Machinefabriek/Soccer Committee. In early 2008, Wim went on to release Wixel plays Sonic Youth, a truly ballsy move considering the legal ramifications; but don’t sue, Thurston, Wim is not wealthy!
Soon afterwards, the artist entered a “winter period” in his life, during which the current album was composed. Much of it was recorded at home on acoustic nylon guitar, and was later augmented by piano, hohner organa and software electronica. Over ten tracks, Wim attempts to capture the “warmth, brightness and hiss” of the sun and the “cold distance” of the moon. The album cover, when opened, depicts a deer with human arms paddling a canoe up a white river to the site of the Apollo landings.
Somewhere Between the Sun and the Moon is a success, but not for the predicted reasons. In fact, the album is a perfect example of intention v. interpretation. Wim’s melancholy translates to empathy on disc, his coldness to comfort. What started as an artist’s lonely meanderings ended up as an audience’s auditory salve. On his website, Wim half-apologetically describes his music as “lacking happiness,” but he’s wrong. The very act of creating music, of making something out of nothing, of transforming negative emotions into palpable product, is in many creative circles the very epitome of happiness.
I doubt that Wim could make a depressing record if he tried. He seems to possess a natural, ephemeral ebullience, which shows in his mad ideas (Sonic Youth and Slaapwel), his ridiculously raucous alter-ego (Bloodroed, now on indefinite hiatus) and his cheerful, unqualified support of other unheralded artists. One might, in fact, make the claim that it is Wim, rather than his music, that rows back and forth between the sun and the moon, as perfect a metaphor for the artistic temperament as I’ve ever encountered.
Wim is quick to mention his influences, which range from Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie) and Adrian Orange (Thanksgiving) to Tim Hecker and John Cage. “This music would never be able to exist without other people’s music,” he writes in his liner notes. “In this record, you can hear me stealing/building upon ideas of some important people.” His humility seems genuine, rather than like an attempt to derail the reviewer. Certainly all good music is an amalgamation of what has come before, but Wim also has a sound of his own, an elusive tenderness that hints at large themes through deceptively simple constructions.
Imagine walking into a room filled with eligible people of whatever gender you wish to date. A large portion of these are stunningly beautiful, while a handful are simply attractive. After conversing with the models, you start to realize that they are less enchanting than initially presumed. Now you begin to notice a person you merely nodded to at the punch bowl, one your brain had initially classified as a “potential friend.” Soon – although you don’t know it – you’ll be asking this person out.
Wixel’s albums are like that person. At first, they just seem like placeholders in a CD changer, non-descript and pleasant, good to hang out with until something better comes along. Your attention, for now, is probably drawn to the flashy new release from the big name act. But soon you’ll tire of that release, which will be replaced by another, and then another. Meanwhile, Wixel’s disc will stay in the changer. No, you’ve not tired of it yet; in fact, the melodies are beginning to stick in your head like the enchanting voice of the person at that party. You’re falling in love. Yes, you are.
How exactly does Wixel achieve this effect? By burying sub-melodies and counterpoints behind his main melodies like hidden talents and traits. This album reveals its treasures slowly and is worth getting to know. It may seem like background music when first played, but then it will eventually take baby steps forward, waiting to be noticed.
To many, the album’s highlight will be “Nowhere,” which formerly appeared on 45 and contains the album’s most memorable guitar line. But for my money, the go-to track is “Barefoot on the Surface of the Sun,” a piece whose initial abrasion – a mounting wall of white noise – is absolutely integral to the project. This track reminds us that Wixel is only languid by design; that his chaos is not absent, but reined in. While the album is easy to listen to, it is not “easy listening;” it carries a lot more bite than anything in that genre. The lack of overt, repetitive melody is the quality that allows Somewhere Between the Sun and the Moon to survive repeated plays without erosion.
With only two albums under his belt, Wixel is well on his way to establishing a signature sound. While he may be too humble to be a leader, others may one day claim him as an influence, and I believe nothing would make him happier. Well done, Wim, hope you’re feeling better.