WAXX LYRICAL FEATURE ALBUM #4
RÜFÜS DU SOL'S 4TH ALBUM SURRENDER | OUT NOW
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Emerging from a full 12 months in solitude, RÜFÜS DU SOL are back with their remarkable fourth album Surrender, a word that tellingly titles their deepest and most heartfelt album yet. From Australia to the world stage, this is a group who consistently delivers a trademark sound that delights a legion of fans globally.
RÜFÜS DU SOL is a band almost synonymous with tension. Hailing from Sydney and formed in 2010 by Jon George, James Hunt and Tyrone Lindqvist, the trio sit at the attractive intersection of instrumental sophistication and dance music smarts and real life lyrics, often immensely personal and pained that set them apart from any other typical live dance act.
Unsurprisingly, the three came together around a shared passion for the live-electronic stalwarts like Chemical Brothers and Royksopp. This effortless yet considered fusion of elements has inevitably led them to popularity, one that would build immensely over the next 10 years and incorporate the global stage.
A magnetic live act, there's a certain mystic shrouding RÜFÜS DU SOL, not to the Australian music festival-lover or club-goer - they certainly won't have any trouble recognising, their iconic and signature sound, but more so to the general music consumer. Their following is indeed huge and rather rabid, however, it takes the blend of cult-like icons or underground heroes to nurture this crowd carefully and thoughtfully. To put it clearly, RÜFÜS DU SOL are much, much bigger than you think they are.
One can hardly dub them "underground" though -- their debut record, ATLAS (2013), and its follow up, BLOOM (2016), were both smashes and complete masterclasses in showcasing a band with a focus not on celebrity or the spotlight, but for emerging as an important contemporary electronic bands and, frankly, epic live act. They've performed at Coachella in 2016, 2017 and 2019 and at other festivals like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and Electric Forest. They play annual sold out shows at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and their recently announced November 2021 three night run at California Stadium sold 70,000 tickets over three days. Back home in Australia remains an annual pilgrimage for the band, with key triumphs like the 2019 24,500 fan return to the Melbourne Sidney Myer Bowl.
But with 2018's SOLACE, things got serious and its huge success felt like things had completed the full circle. It was enough for the band to earn them a Grammy nomination, the songs connected even harder and the audiences grew larger. The demand and constant whirlwind promotional duties, touring, performances and business meetings around the globe saw the band on the brink of burn-out.
"We'd been touring heavily, we hadn't been taking care of ourselves too much," drummer James Hunt told ELLE in an exclusive interview recently. "We'd write till 6am every night — that's where the magic would come."
Between this and their new lifestyle, their plates were positively overflowing. Then, the pandemic hit.
"As terrible as the pandemic has been, it was a blessing disguise for us," Hunt reveals. "We needed to take stock, we needed to look at how we were doing self care and to structure how we were writing [songs]."
As COVID-19 shut down the entire world and any possibility of shows and touring, the three leant into the silence, knuckled down and began the journey towards Surrender.
“We’ve spent two years locked away in our sanctuary making tunes,” they explain. “At the end of that process, we translate what we did in the studio, where we’re three producers and songwriters, and we go into a full band setup where we allocate parts to each other. We flesh the songs out, put jams in there, showcase our instruments, have fun with it, and let it be free flowing.
Trusting the process and setting themselves deadlines for the first time, the band found inspiration in balance, reconnecting as a group, responsibilities, growing up and even indulging self-care. The results shine beautifully from Surrender, it is indeed a record of growth and undoubtedly a RÜFÜS record, albeit a more reflective and inward-looking one that literally sees the band coming back down to earth.
Every RÜFÜS DU SOL record is an exercise in building a world. With SOLACE, for example, it was space-inspired, but this time around they've built a sonic tapestry for the terrestrial, using earth and minerals -- ideas of crystallization and diamonds--as a jumping off point.
“On the last record it was space, and we were seeing how we could represent the cosmos and black holes and the galactic through synth sounds,” the band explains. “The new record sounds crystalline and very granular.”
The overarching geological themes become clearer as the visual promo photos and videos roll out. They worked with multidisciplinary artist Stefano Giacomello of Studio Rotolo in Montreal to bring this natural environment to life, a seemingly natural shift for the group whose penchant for synthesised sounds are equally matched only by the manmade. They are as inspired by contemporary dance artists like Moderat, Jon Hopkins, and Bicep as they are nature, architecture and citing Ricardo Bofill’s masterpiece La Muralla Roja -- a red fortress of a housing project built into the side of a mountain in Calpe, Spain.
And it's no secret just how deeply influenced they are by the Californian desert. Their most recent release before the new album was was Live from Joshua Tree (2020), a set performed under expansive golden hour skies to tide fans over between records. Recorded live during the pandemic, the record represents a cleansing before starting afresh on the new album. While in Joshua Tree, the trio spent every waking hour together, rekindling a uniting force not felt since their marathon sessions writing BLOOM and SOLACE.
“We like being around nature. We spend a lot of time in Joshua Tree in the desert -- that’s very core to who we are,” says the band. “We’ve written different records in different places, from the beaches in Australia to Berlin and London and Joshua Tree. We’ve gotten very comfy with the studio space in L.A. and using this space to escape as we write our music. It’s very healthy for us.”
Surrender is ardent and sturdy emotional dance record that serves as strident reminder to appreciate life in the face of challenging and difficult times.
"At least I'm alive," Lindqvist sings on lead single 'Alive', an optimistic sentiment given the times, but also one that could be detected as sarcastic had it not been written pre-pandemic.
"I remember we left Tyrone in the studio one night after I’d heard this really sick song on a TV show that was set in Japan I think," the band told Rolling Stone Australia. "The song was called “Anvil” by an artist called Lorn and it has this really cool dark gritty cinematic electronica vibe and it just felt really fresh. I remember coming back to the studio the next day and Tyrone had jammed this really insane sketch of an idea using the prophet. He had generated this arpeggiated line and across the sequence of this idea there were just a bunch of different hooks and different lyrics, including “at least I’m alive“, “there’s a pain in my chest that I can’t describe” that all had come out in the initial jam. I remember it being so captivating and exciting and we all agreed it was a really powerful idea we wanted to run with."
In fact, Lindqvist's vocals across the album drip of mortality, self-reflection and longing, even more so than ever before. He exudes a nostalgic yearning - brooding one moment, uplifting the next. Something life-changing has happened to this man, it's apparent.
'Next To Me' opens with a simple, organic piano line that couldn't actually set the album up better. It swiftly takes a crowning place as one of RÜFÜS DU SOL's finest tracks ever. "You're the one / Oh my God / Oh my God," he promises over a chopped vocal sample and arpeggiated bells. Not something we expect to hear in a club, but here we are.
Elsewhere, 'On My Knees' demonstrates newfound lyrical honesty and candor, while the likes of 'I Don't Wanna Leave' shifts the pace slightly from the tried and true four-to-the-floor to something with more of a trap beat. The band describe the vocal line as something "folky" and close to Bon Iver. The spiritual title track incorporates gospel flavours - "Let the rain come down / open up the skies" with Michigan soul artist Curtis Harding featuring on vocals and a children's choir taking the response to Lindqvist's call. If electronic dance church is a thing, than this is one that should be included in the sermon.
At four albums, it'd be easy for RÜFÜS DU SOL to kick back on their previous success and deliver what they've always done. But the utterly masterful growth displayed here on Surrender is a progressive step - both melodically and dancefloor-ready - that only true greats committed to longevity could take.