An inspiring and unpredictable collaboration
Sarah Taylor
12:17 2nd February 2023

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On their self-titled first outing as The Waeve, genre-bending duo Graham Coxon (Blur) and Rose Elinor Dougall (The Pipettes) combine ethereal vocal harmonies and unpredictable arrangements, resulting in an arresting debut.

Both fans of one another’s work, a chance meeting at a charity performance led to the pair’s eventual collaboration.

‘Can I Call You’ sets the tone for this moody record. Cascading piano chimes and breathy Cate Le Bon-like vocals from Dougall make for an eerie opener, but one that soon gathers momentum. It metamorphoses into a jolting melody with Coxon’s soft sprechgesang complementing Dougall in harmony.

Coxon and Dougall’s voices are not the only contrast The Waeve presents. Like ‘Can I Call You’, several tracks take unexpected twists and turns, suspending the listener in their chaos.

‘Kill Me Again’ sees Coxon dusting off his beloved saxophone, adding a melancholic layer to the musical landscape.

As the name suggests, The Waeve is full of fluidity, with some songs gliding smoothly by – namely ‘Over and Over’ – whilst others, such as ‘Someone Up There’, are choppy and unsettling. The latter bares a clear electronic influence with its pulsating instrumentals, high-frequency synths, and almost-shouted vocals.

There’s a lurking sense of morbidity on ‘Sleepwalking’, which begins with a pulsating drum loop and mournful strings. These meld with Dougall’s wistful delivery of sombre lyrics like: ‘You were brought up to be disappointed / Always ready to leave when it counted’. But like aforementioned tracks, this too transforms musically into one of the album’s more uplifting cuts, imbued with soaring guitars. The build-up is reminiscent of recent Wolf Alice hit ‘The Last Man on Earth’, with Dougall’s pronounced vocals evoking Ellie Rowsell.

"Coxon and Dougall are clearly a match made in musical heaven, bringing out the best in each other..."

‘Drowning’ ushers in a renewed sense of calm, with the aid of twinkly keys. A particularly mesmerising saxophone solo rests atop a swaying melody that mimics the motion of the sea and soon evolves into sweeping strings. It’s a grandiose centrepiece, cinematic in nature. Sizzling distortion carries the song into rockier territory as Coxon chimes in with the hook ‘I’m drowning again’ before Dougall joins in unison.

The folk-tinged ‘All Along’ boasts one of Dougall’s most refined vocal performances atop a subtle yet haunting arrangement that develops into distortion. 

More than half the albums tracks stretch beyond six minutes. ‘Undine’ is the lengthiest, with a gentle intro and hazy sax-solo that soon evolves into undulating rhythm. Like other songs, Coxon takes over the lead vocal in its second half. His vocals are light and wispy, brimming with emotion. Dougall backs him this time, reaching a higher octave. ‘Undine’ is the closest thing to a traditional duet that the album has to offer.

The final two tracks are perhaps the most sing-alongable. There’s a simultaneous sense of optimism and bleakness to ‘Alone and Free’, elevated by luscious string arrangements. Meanwhile, ‘You’re All I Want to Know’ is a woozy waltz-like track, with a real sense of closure: ‘So stick around / Its too late to turn back now’. Coxon’s reputation for guitar playing prowess precedes him and it is evident in the swirling solos he effortlessly implements here.

The Waeve is a fascinating project, if somewhat a slow burner, filled with gorgeous instrumentation that will transport the listener to another realm. Coxon and Dougall are clearly a match made in musical heaven, bringing out the best in each other, and there’s a real sense that this collection of songs will translate even better performed live.

The Waeve is out Friday 3rd Feb

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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