The WAEVE: The WAEVE [Album Review]

Transgressive Records [2023]

The WAEVE represents a new collaboration between Blur lead guitarist and second vocalist Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall, who was in the British pop girl group The Pipettes in the 00’s, before pursuing a solo career that included collaborating with Mark Ronson, performing on his third solo album, “Record Collection.” The duo reportedly met at a fundraiser late in 2020, and had a child together in 2022, making this eponymously titled debut their second official offspring. With Coxon purposely stepping away from the Britpop leanings of his work with Blur and turning more often to saxophone and synths and adding guitar only sparingly, it might help to be reminded that he also wrote and scored the music for the soundtrack for the two seasons of the Netflix series “The End of the F***ing World,” to begin to imagine this new music’s experimental, cinematic scope. Together with Dougall, their imaginative music shares an interest in the British folk tradition a la Fairport Convention, as well as combining influences from the electronica and psychedelia of the band Broadcast, along with elements of progressive rock and jazz thrown in for good measure.

On a song like “All Along,” which builds on a simple folk song melody, sung by Dougall over a gently played Cittern, a Renaissance-era stringed instrument in the lute family, the essential song structure remains constant, while a solid drum beat picks up the rhythm and numerous droning keyboards and other instruments alter the tone and texture as it builds into a bit of Celtic rocker. But elsewhere, on the opening “Can I Call You,” the song begins like a piano ballad over echoing drums, but then the texture changes to a shuffling synth beat and Coxon on a fluid electric guitar run, before it changes again with sax and keyboard chord textures, with Dougall’s chanted punk rant vocal carrying it to the end. “Over and Over” starts like a gentle indie rock ballad with Coxon singing and saxes adding a bit of jazz feel to the choruses, as he wonders with singer/songwriter angst, “How many more mistakes can one heart weather?”, his plaintive guitar bluesy in the fills, followed by a secondary movement, an “ahhing” breathy, Beatlesque sigh opens up room for a serious rock solo from the ace guitarist.

“Kill Me Again” broods on a big thumping electronic beat, the closest Coxon gets to something resembling Blur, but the lush strings and dark cellos of the Elysian Quartet that accompany Dougall’s soulful vocal on “Sleepwalking,” before it to leans into an earnest electronic beat and the strings come back full over the pulsing bass line, suggests that you shouldn’t get too comfortable in any one musical direction or style. The brief, strident punch of post-punk electronica that is “Someone Up There,” gives Dougall a grinding beat to sing over, Coxon providing some guttural guitar tones. While much of the second half of the disc shifts to the more pensive and reflective tone, as in the brooding jazz ballad “Undine,” where Dougall’s stacked vocals and Coxon’s saxophone are intertwined, it’s musically soothing even as it builds to a more expansive and orchestrated conclusion. The longer tracks here allow the duo’s musical vision to stretch out, and develop a musical theme, and mix in fresh textures along the way. The closing track, “You’re All I Want to Know,” finds the duo in jazzy pop duet form, singing in harmony, airy and light, with one more gritty, emotional guitar solo for good luck before the strings and sax take things out at the end. The WAEVE’s introductory impact suggests a variety of possibilities, often leaving no stone unturned as they mix and match musical interests within their established framework, something fans of experimental and eclectic pop music will no doubt appreciate.

“Can I Call You” / “You’re All I Want To Know” / “Over And Over”

Blur / Amy Winehouse / Talk Talk

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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