Review + Q&A | Wolf + Lamb vs Soul Clap

Wolf + Lamb vs Soul Clap

house \haus \ n + chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 05.18.11

To bill the latest installment of !K7’s impeccably curated DJ-KiCKs series as Wolf + Lamb versus Soul Clap is misleading. The two camps, from Brooklyn and Boston respectively, are peas in a pod—there is no infighting here. In fact, this is a case of four heads—Gadi Mizrahi and Zev Eisenberg of Wolf + Lamb and Eli Goldstein and Charles Levine of Soul Clap—being better than one. 

A collective consciousness, the quartet presents a rather singular vision, one that espouses an approach to dance music that holds subtlety and groove close to the heart while the rest of club land gets steadily more intense, aggressive even. The music progressives that hang with Wolf + Lamb for its night at the Marcy Hotel don’t rage, their taste is more refined.

On its surface, the quartet’s sound is basically deep house, but a closer inspection reveals a wealth of nuanced diversity. Bass lines bubble over amidst mutant disco, techy flourishes, hints of acid jazz, uptempo soul and a groove-riding deep thump. For these four, a youth steeped in black music is self-evident. There’s even a hint of old school hip-hop in the electro funk bass of songs like “Deniz Kurtel and Mizrahi’s “Crank It Up” and the Parliament-esque “3 Wheel E-Motion” by Soul Clap.

And these boys aren’t afraid to slow it down. Within four tracks they ditch an already slow-burning tempo for the mellow groove of Double Hills’ “Every Time I Go,” a track that would be right at home on Mark Farina’s next Mushroom Jazz mix. After a brief 8-track build-up, they cut it down again, ushering in the midtempo shuffle of Sect’s standout “In the Park” featuring London soul crooner Ben Westbeech.

The secret to capturing their sound so succinctly? Across the mix’s 27 tracks, the vast majority is kept in the family. Meaning they come from the selectors themselves—both duos spend as much time producing as deejaying—or from close affiliates like Nicolas Jaar and Greg Paulus. The musical statement here is so concise it could prove to be too much sonic wallpaper for the uninitiated. Not so much a criticism as the nature of the beat, just know that Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap aren’t in a hurry, and if you’re going to truly enjoy this mix, you shouldn’t be either.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

About 45 minutes before they were to take the stage at Detroit's Movement Festival this past Memorial Day weekend, I had a chance to sit down with Eli Goldstein and Charlie Levine of Soul Clap. Each had a touch of jet lag or a touch of a cold, but they were clearly excited to be performing there for the first time. So much so, it was little difficult to hold their attention. And with that many candy ravers, friends and other sights competing, I couldn't blame them. Nonetheless, we chatted for a spell about their hometown of Boston, their growing success and their penchant for slowing things down.

Is this your first time here at Movement?
Charlie Levine: This is our fourth or fifth year attending the festival, but this is our first year performing. I’m really excited; it’s my favorite weekend of the year.

It’s definitely the perfect way to kick off the festival season. Do you have a lot more things like this planned for the summer?
Eli Gold: Well, we’re playing Glastonbury in the U.K., Garden Festival in Croatia, Sonar in Barcelona and Welcome to the Future, outside of Amsterdam.

So the short answer is yes?
CL: Oh, and Burning Man.

And then Burning Man? Right on. I have a couple buddies who are diehard burners. You may have to rethink which is your favorite weekend of the season after that.
CL: It can be our favorite week.

So with this and all those tours, how does it compare to clubbing in Boston?CL: I don’t think there’s any comparison between what we’re doing here and anything in Boston.

So you’re a one-of-a-kind thing up there.
EG: Well, there’s our homie Tanner Ross and we have a lot of friends who are DJs there. There are a lot of really small, intimate after-hours that have built up there over the past 10 years from our group. But just like a lot of cities in the U.S., the clubs close at 2am so it’s very underground and very small.

CL: It’s very funny to think back to the beginning of when our whirlwind of touring started. We’d come back from a weekend somewhere, like Amsterdam or Berlin, and try to do a show and it’d be a total bust. We’d come from all this glory and insanity to just the dive bar scene in Boston. It’s just really wild, they’re like parallel universes.

How’d the whole Soul Clap thing evolve?
 CL: I think when we forged our relationship with Wolf + Lamb, that’s really when everything took off on a grand scale. But we were working very organically with a label called Air Drop for the first few years. We helped them get off the ground and they release our first records. You know, we were generating a small buzz, but when we joined with Wolf + Lamb, I think that’s when we really discovered our sound and hit that stride. It was very much a kindred spirit connection. They had an agenda and a more historic sound. We were very much aligned with that.

What about you two, how’d the connection start there?
EG: At the parking lot of a rave.

CL: Yeah, we met raving. We’re rave babies. We had a mutual friend who went to my high school. He was like, Eli deejays, Charlie deejays, and we were like, oh shit, I know you from raving. And we just started sharing a record collection. We formed Soul Clap in 2001, but we’ve known each other since ’97.

How did your sound come together?
EG: Just years and years of experimenting.

CL: To survive in Boston you had to play anything that would come your way, be that a wedding or a private event, a hip-hop club or a dancehall night. So we’re doing these other nights professionally, with the dream of doing electronic music the whole time, and finding along the way that by fusing everything together we became very interesting.

What’s cool about it is, I don’t want to say it’s going against the grain…
EG: We’re very much trying to go against the grain.

CL: Like, ok, you’re doing this and you’re popular. I’m going to do the complete fucking opposite of that.

EG: Even beyond that, we try to always be pushing ourselves and experimenting in new ways. Ok, so, it worked with these R 'n' B edits, so now let’s do something completely different.

You guys really aren’t afraid to slow it down.
CL: We love slowing it down. It’s sexy. When we slow it down people start making out. Now we’re getting people coming up to us being like, I met my girlfriend or I met my boyfriend at a Wolf + Lamb or a Soul Clap show and now we’re in love. We’re like the Dr. Ruth of dance music.

How was putting together the DJ-KiCKS?  EG: It was a really good experience. We all moved down to Miami together last November. We worked on music together, we compiled music together, we mixed the music together. It was amazing getting really tight with those guys and then taking it on the road the last two months. We really feel like a band right now.

Then there’s the other mix you did for Art Department’s label. I would imagine the Soul Clap extended family is expanding really quickly.
 EG: Totally, yeah.

Aside from you guys, many of the acts here at Movement—Art Department, Visionquest and these guys—they all seem to be coming from a similar spot.
EG: Well Visionquest is a generation before us in a way. They really pioneered it for us, bringing house music back and bringing the American sound back. But I think our generation—Art Department, Benoit and Sergio, and a lot of the other Wolf + Lamb artist like No Regular Play and our boy Tanner Ross—we’re taking it in a more experimental and out there direction, really playing with the tempo even more.

In the elevator coming down, there was a girl who said the first big thing she couldn’t wait to get over here for was you guys. It’s great to hear about this reinvigorated interest.
EG: Was she cute?

She was actually.
EG: Alright, that’s awesome.

Like you said, it’s sexy music right?
CL: If this girl is feeling sexy and she wants to come here to continue that feeling, then we’re successful, successfully sexy.

EG: We’ve put so much work in America now. Seeing the last month of this DJ-KiCKS tour in North America, I feel like the country’s really behind us right now. It’s really amazing, the amount of support we’ve gotten from people. It’s like everybody wanted it to happen. If not us, they wanted somebody like us to come and be like, we love you guys. I’m out there dancing on the fucking dance floor, we’re out there in the party because we want to hang out with everybody. It’s like, let’s do this together.

What else do you guys have in the works?CL: This tour ends and we don’t even have a week off.

EG: At some point we have an album that’s going to come out. We’ve been working diligently at that, but It’s been difficult. We’ve written almost all of it on the road or in Miami or in transit. We’ve got a lot of remix work, we’re starting to really catch the ear of more major labels. We even had an opportunity to remix the Beastie Boys. They didn’t accept it, but we’re playing the dub mix all the time and it’s getting great reactions.

Sometimes that’s how those things go. Watch, five years from now people will be like, how can we get that?
It’s really funny because the feedback we got was that it’s too classic. But that’s what we do you know.


And here's their Essential Mix from Pete Tong, broadcast on the BBC in early March:

  Soul Clap Essential Mix - March 5th 2011 by Soul Clap



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