Today we talk about talent. Almost like a dirty word, they say we are all extraordinary at something. Whether it’s in art, plastic or more natural to say a simple hello, it’s something we discover over time – and that characterises us.
Cristiano Ronaldo scores goals of all shapes and sizes, wherever he is. Maria makes a masterly bread, which we feel like repeating at any time of the day.
We could spend all day here taking sides with people who inspire us to do more and better every day, but we’ll only give one more example of how good it is to live. It’s time to right the sin of not having talked more in-depth about a Belgian band on the rise for world domination earlier this year. Meet Balthazar.
THE SAND CASTLE TAPES
It was Thursday, I was leaving the cinema after watching the wonderful film Oasis Knebworth 1996. The yearning for midnight had been coursing through my veins for the past few weeks – and halfway through the trip that burst of joy happened. It was past midnight, and Balthazar had just released the perfect soundtrack for their documentary, The Sand Castle Tapes.
Everything was recorded during the lockdown, in an old castle near Brussels.
The band leaves us with a sentence that characterizes this experience so well: “You only get to fully understand an album when you start playing it together, the relaxed circumstances lead to a whole other way of interpreting the songs than we would have for a live show. It’s refreshing, it’s very human.”
And everything is right when the timing is perfect.
The first chords we heard in the last months of this session (“On A Roll”, “I Want You”) were enough for it to be unanimous that everyone to whom we presented the music was not indifferent to what they were hearing: be it the rhythm, the powerful voices of Jinte Deprez or Maarten Devoldere or the moment in which you are listening to each song. Everyone had that shiver down their spine, where the outline of memory was clearly evident and it was quite suitable for that song/rhythm.
The band took its first steps in 2004, with the members coming from the lands of Kortrijk and Ghent in Belgium/Flanders. They currently consist of Jinte Deprez, Maarten Devoldere, Simon Casier, Michiel Balcaen and Tijs Delbeke.
And it is through “Sand” that we glimpse the band’s future, now in a live format. The space where you’ll hear the themes will certainly be your castle – and that’s what Balthazar want: a live experience in any corner of the world.
We review the ten songs that make up this moment.
The engines start, and it’s in “On a Roll” that we feel exactly that. It feels like we’re at the soundcheck in a café, with a thousand and one events happening at that very moment. Jinte Deprez’s voice can be heard in the distance, but then it’s taken over by a magnificent choir that chills everything inside us. It’s acoustic, in the purest form of making music.
We move on to “Powerless”, with its more jazz attitude that promises to set a date with our true soul mate. If there is music that can define seduction, this is it. It could be perfectly associated with any film noir of the 80’s/90’s. What a desire to hear these songs in front of us, live.
We move from room to room – and in the midst of conversations, sounds, and instruments in a frank experimental phase, we have “JAM 1”. And it’s growing, growing on us because it’s a minute and a half of pure passage.
And we passed. We’ve arrived at “Moment”. If the original version is already scorching, the live version makes it all the clearer: this is Balthazar’s moment, and they’re not here to waste a second of it.
Halfway through we soothe our souls a little – and the ideal theme for that is “You Won’t Come Around”. A softer rhythm, which comes from within – and which will whisper in our ear throughout the rest of the album.
With the drums taking over the initial rhythm, we get to “Linger On”. From there on? Drums, guitar, bass, keyboard and extraordinary voices in unison. It can be rock, electronic or just plain ol’ rubbish. We leave it up to the listener.
It’s time to re-tune the instruments. And that’s where “JAM 2” comes in and its eloquent piano wrapped with a voice straight out of the world’s most brilliant opera performances. Beautiful.
We went in as “Losers”, we came out as true Winners. This is one of Sand’s most beautiful songs – and live you wouldn’t expect anything other than heaven. It’s the perfect song to listen to with your head out of the car, feeling that incredible summer breeze: warm and friendly. We can say we’ve experienced it, in Arrábida, Setúbal, Portugal – and we want to do it again, every day of our lives.
We’re more at the end than “Halfway”, but this is where we hear, in the background, the artists all speaking in their native tongue while waving some kind of tambourine and tapping their foot hard on the drum kit pedal. And out of nowhere, we hit an apotheotic Balthazar form, with voice and instruments rocking our soul.
The band has just left the room, and we find ourselves clapping for an encore. And they’re back.
And it’s with “I Want You” that we end this experience. Seductive, with a danceable rhythm that promises not to leave our less moved friend indifferent, it’s the perfect way to end this experience.
They may not be in front of us, but “The Sand Castle Tapes” brought just that: a live Balthazar concert in the place where we’re listening to the record. And the performance is so immaculate that we’re already listening to it again. A WtMM recommendation.