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Stroom unearth another stray nugget here, patchworking tracks (1983-1985) from Dutch new wave trio W.A.T.'s three albums into a vital anthology that showcases their ahead-of-the-curve blend of jangly, nonchalant indie and blippy electro pop. RIYL A C Marias, Siouxsie, The Smiths, Vazz
Released in 1983, a couple of years after guitarist Ad van Meurs had run into bassist Frank van den Nieuwenhof in Eindhoven, the six tracker was conceived in the living room Meurs shared with his partner, vocalist and keyboardist Ankie Keultjes, who used a Sequential Circuits Pro One synth and Boss drum machine to accompany Meurs' guitar and pedal steel jangles and Nieuwenhof's dextrous basslines. These tracks established a style that was defiantly ahead of its time, using unusual time signatures and complex harmonies to lift jaunty, new wave pop miniatures that were as comfortable on the dancefloor as on the home stereo. A couple of years later they released 'We' and another mini-album 'Thin Blue Notes', before Meurs and Keultjes turned their attention towards their enduring project The Watchman. Although W.A.T.'s material was acclaimed at the time, the releases sunk into obscurity - this is the first time these tracks have been reissued.
'World According To' plucks the best tracks from the three albums, funneling them into a surprisingly coherent 12 tracks that deftly illustrate their unhindered creativity. The trio were inspired by punk, but their process was far more rigorous; rehearsal sessions would blur from hours to days, and Meurs, Nieuwenhof and Keultjes developed a sound that plummeted a few fathoms beneath the mainstream. They were inspired by the nascent electronic dance music of the era, employing echoey beatbox rhythms and analog arpeggios that propelled Meurs' Johnny Marr-esque twangs, Nieuwenhof's groove-fwd bass and Keultjes' moonlit vocals. It's all on display on 'Famous', the opening track from 'Defreeze' that materializes over bleepy coldwave synths and Keultjes' gothy utterances. "I would have been gutted, bubbled and fluttered, through the funnels of my mind," she moans, before Meurs cuts in with chorus-heavy electric guitar. That album's title track is even morr off kilter, all scraggly Raymond Scott-like analog sequences, tangled grooves and marching band drums - it's like The Cure after a hot wash cycle.
'Wax', from the 'We' album, shows how the band developed their sound further; here the beats are more squashed and synths more psychedelic, while Keultjes' vocals sound rounder and more confident. On 'THX', Nieuwenhof's basslines bounce underneath sung-spoken words from Meurs, densely layered guitars and jerky electronics from Keultjes. 'Sangatte' is even more unique, a low-key waltz that stifles its patter of synthesized drums with Keultjes' romantic coos.
Some of the band's best material was included on their last record: 'Thin Blue Notes' should have rightly been their breakout, sizzling new wave pop choruses in dubwise instrumentation, and 'Conspiracy in the Dark' finishes off the anthology with a fuzz of melancholy that's so grey skied it may as well have come from Manchester. It's fantastic material that makes us wonder why it hasn't been reevaluated sooner - needless to say, if yr into classic 4AD, Les Disques du Crépuscule or Factory, 'World According To' is a doozy.