The brand-new Brussels label blickwinkel debuts with Schreel Van De Velde, the merger of two musical wolverines and animal lovers: guitarist Lucas Schreel and drummer Casper Van De Velde.
Balts is the first release on the new Brussels-Ghent-based label blickwinkel, a collabora- tion between Pieter Dudal and visual artist Jelle Martens. “Blickwinkel focuses on the dialogue between image and sound, averse to genres,” says Pieter Dudal. “Hence the name: Blickwinkel is German for ‘point-of-view’. With our label, we want to make you see from a different perspective.” But the word also brings to mind a factory of sound experiments, he says. “We are very interested in the playful ways in which musicians can make us look at sound differently. Together with the musicians, we want to develop a visual language that reflects the character of the music.”
Is there a drummer with more poetry in his fingers than Casper Van De Velde? He caresses, paints, colours and grinds with SCHNTZL, Donder and countless other bands. Always thoughtful, with much wonder. The same sense of wonder can be heard in Balts, Schreel Van De Velde's debut album, the new duo he shares with guitarist Lucas Schreel, who has just moved to Brussels.
Schreel Van De Velde came into being when Lucas Schreel was looking for a drummer for his solo debut We're Never Afraid of Getting Up Every Morning, a lofi craft pop record sung in an invented language which was released last year. “At the time, it still felt a bit like I just came to add a few fills,” says Casper Van De Velde. “In Balts there's a lot more interaction, this is really a dialogue between Lucas and me.”
This dialogue now takes place instrumentally, in a language with the spirit of jazz and the aesthetics of folk. A language that was shaped a few decades ago by American primitive guitarists like John Fahey and Robbie Basho, and more recently refined by the likes of William Tyler and Ryley Walker. “That's totally the trip I'm in,” agrees Schreel. “But of course, you also try to find your own identity.”
That is an identity that he certainly has found. Balts is a beautiful record that seeks out tranquillity in tingling guitar sounds, shuffling drum rolls and gurgling cymbals. A hybrid resulting from two musicians with very broad musical tastes, and who are used to improvising, anticipating and reacting. The classically trained Schreel shared many an evening of free improvisation with Mattias De Craene and Teun Verbruggen, among others. With the Ghent band Kloothommel he plays “alternative indie rock”, but starting around a year and a half ago, he also manifests himself as a songwriter.
The songs that ended up on Balts germinated early last year, when Covid-19 was still a distant nightmare. But with their quiet, meditative nature, they seem tailor-made for the pandemic. “I don't think Covid-19 has had an influence on the music,” counters Schreel. “That's simply what happens when you throw both of our personalities together.” A harmonious blend that is already present in the exotic sounding group name, Schreel Van De Velde. “I had been thinking for a while about adding a bass player,” Schreel says. “But then you have a classical jazz trio. Not doing that grows the challenge, and Casper's role becomes more important. The space in Schreel Van De Velde is democratically divided.” “Democratic sounds a bit too cautious,” thinks Van De Velde. “I prefer searching for a balance.”
That balance is an area of tension, between attraction and repulsion, love and broken love. Calling a record Balts (“Courtship”), it should be about love. “Music is always a reflection of where you are in your life, but that is of itself irrelevant,” Schreel says. “Anyway, love in its glory and in its bad times was definitely a theme at the time I wrote the music. 'Baltsen' is a Dutch term for the behaviour certain animals exhibit to attract a mate, but the title of the record is more layered than that to me. The album is mostly a motley collection of energies.”
Balts also houses a tension between culture and nature. It is probably no coincidence that two city boys fill their record with songs with animal names like “Luiaard” (“Sloth”), “Otter” and “Zeebeer” (“Sea Bear”). “Maybe not, no,” Van De Velde laughingly agrees. “I recently moved to a house with a small garden and I had already noticed that I can't miss this oasis in the city. I'm thinking a lot about that right now. Where do I want to be the most? In the hustle and bustle of the city or the peace and quiet of nature?”
“I like to be inspired by art,” Schreel picks up, “but nature can do that just as well. Recently, from a bridge, I looked at the ripples in the water of the canal below and thought: this is contemporary art, this image would fit so well at Wiels.” “It's about that being amazed,” Van De Velde nods. “We both have that with a lot of things.” “That is indeed how I know you,” says Schreel about his partner. “You can be moved by how the light falls on a building.”
Actually, those titles were also a pragmatic thing, Van De Velde admits. “Lucas' working titles were, well, hard to remember, and then suddenly those animals came up as the perfect capstones for the emotion that was in the songs, and the playful feel. I just like that it's not overly laboured.” “We both work in a very intuitive way,” Schreel says. “Maybe it could have been all citrus fruits too. But that still appeals somewhat less to the imagination.”
There is one odd duck among all the animal names: “Alva”. Schreel smiles. “That is a small animal that is particularly close to my heart. That ensures that humankind is also represented on the record. It's my godson. There had to be a human on Noah's ark, too.”
Balts is out on 28/5, www.blickwinkel.be