Hooverphonic’s new album Reflection will be their 8th studio album. And this means that Alex Callier, Raymond Geerts and Noémie Wolfs are slowly but surely making a unique name for themselves in the Belgian and international music scene. Reflection is without doubt one of the most lively, energetic and up-tempo albums the band has ever made. And a return to analogue too. What we play, is what you get!
From A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular in 1996 to Reflection in 2013. Up until now it had been a wild and eclectic ride for Hooverphonic. From triphop to strings, from psychedelic weirdness to bombastic orchestras. Forever on the move. Forever in search of a new sound with its own character. Timeless.
On Reflection, which meanwhile is the second album with singer Noémie Wolfs, Hooverphonic has made a decisive return to the natural analogue sound. “I have problems with the standardisation of our times. The computer has put everything within reach of everyone. Everything is preset. Every sound effect, every reverb is but a plug-in away. However, everything you hear is digitally produced, and misses depth and naturalness. This album is a reaction to present-day recording and thinking. I wanted to record in rooms that had never been used before by other bands”, says Alex Callier.
Which explains why the band came up with ‘Hooverdomestic’. A project appealing to anyone with music in their heart & soul to have their home transformed for a week into a recording studio for the new album. Of the 180 candidates, 4 were found to be ideal: a brickworks in Boom restored to a loft, two majestic houses in Gent-Brugge and the Champagne region and an old farm belonging to an artist in Kermt. “In fact five, because we’ll also be recording vocals in a church… after all, it is the house of God”, says Alex Callier with a smile.
Atmosphere is created in no small way by the acoustics in a space or room. And reverb is neither more nor less than the ‘reflections’ of sound waves. And Reflection is what this new album is all about. Setting up drums in a dining room and miking the church organ. Installing speakers in the lounge and at the altar, some distance away. And then recording the natural reverb of instrument and voice in that space. Something like the echo chambers of the fifties. Wood panelling, parquet floors, brick walls, moulding, empty corridors and high ceilings. The result is as eclectic as it is infectious. Perfect in its imperfection. “It’s turned out to be a ‘dirty’ album. Raw, no frills. Simply pure and natural. No cutting and pasting”, explains Alex Callier.
What’s also striking is the absence of strings this time around. Instead, three fresh new voices. “On ‘The Night Before’, Noémie’s voice sounded very young due to her lack of experience up until then. The intensive touring that followed the record led to her growing in leaps and bounds as a singer. It was natural to me, and important, that her voice should be right there in the mix for all to hear this time. So the strings had to go.” So, there’s plenty of opportunity for vocals on Reflection. Which is why the band went in search of an extra dimension, in search of backing vocalists to add that “naive sixties feel”. And three young guys who live and breathe music did just that.
In every home they came into, Hooverphonic made it a point of honour to use a home-grown instrument during the recordings. An old piano from the 19th century, for instance. So old that no one could find the right tuning hammer to tune it. The band had no choice but to go work using the only note that more or less sounded right. In Champagne they converted a toy harmonium and Magnum bottles into an improvised bottle-organ. In Boom they found a home-made shaman drum and in Kermt a megaphone…
Quiet, we’re cooking!
“When we came to them with the idea of Hooverdomestic, our record label said we were crazy. So much could go wrong… In the end everything worked out fine. No worries, no stress, though sometimes we simply had to accept the situation as it was: the electricity in the house in Champagne wasn’t earthed. As soon as you put the cooker on there was a hum in the mikes. There was only one thing for it, barbecuing every night outside so we could record inside. It was so damp in there that the hammers of the piano stuck. Luckily, Noémie had her hairdryer with her…”
In spite of all the damp and the hum, it’s obvious that the new direction Hooverphonic’s taken on Reflection has really hit the spot. The reactions to Amalfi, the first single to be taken from the album, couldn’t be better. Just 3 weeks after release it stood on #1 in the national Belgian airplay chart and found itself a steady spot in the top10 of the national single sales chart. The strongest start ever from the band. And the start of a new, wild ride…