Masterminded by two classically trained Parisian brothers with experience in jazz ensembles, classical orchestras, world-music troupes and stoner rock bands, WuW‘s debut album is every bit as expansive and experimental as you may expect from two musicians with such broad palettes. By all accounts, newly released Rien Ne Nous Sera Épargné (review here) is a triumph, an avant-garde masterpiece that’s instantly loveable but with a layered composition that rewards repeated listens.
Guillaume and Benjamin Colin’s vast soundscapes traverse many sonic plains, immersing listeners in a sensual atmosphere as they merge minimalist doom, space rock and post-rock with an experimental spirit that proves captivating and transcendent. Channelling the likes of King Crimson and Godspeed You! Black Emperor alongside bouts of psychedelia and krautrock, their distinctly unique music is conjured not only from guitars, bass, and drums, but also from all manner of unconventional instrumentation, including Tibetan bowls and cymbals, African small bells played with goat nails and an array of vintage synthesizers and electric organs.
Eager to find out more about the subtle art of sonic exploration, we spoke to WuW about all things Rien Ne Nous Sera Épargné. Stream the album and read on below.
How do you think your experience in jazz, classical and world music shapes the way you write for WuW?
Well, it is hard to say, because we never think in those terms. We don’t write music thinking about all the different musical experiences we’ve had, trying to mix everything. Actually, maybe we try to forget all of it and just focus on the music itself. WuW’s music is not, strictly speaking, complex. Harmonically, we often use only one or two tones per track, so it is quite far from jazz or classical music.
What is certain is that our experiences allow us to use many different tools, for example Benjamin sometimes plays drums with jazz or Caribbean ensembles so his playing spectrum is wide and that’s something we use. And all the music we have played, studied, heard and listened to is now somehow a part of us, so it is obvious that it is a part of WuW’s sound, but it is not conscious.
After spending time playing in other genres, what inspired you to switch to a more metal-inspired sound?
We didn’t have any precise ideas before we started to work on this project. We just wanted to play heavy and experimental music and to try new things, things we had never done before. It was the right time to do that, we just left the band we played in together for almost ten years [Abrahma], so we had the time and freedom to express ideas that had no space in Abrahma, which was more stoner-doom oriented.
We were teenagers in the ’90s and grew up listening to metal bands such as Sepultura, Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, but also lots of death metal and black metal bands such as Mayhem, Emperor, Darkthrone, Burzum, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates and so on. We started playing together in bands at the same time. This music is a part of us, and even if we played and listened to a lot of different things after that, we never stopped listening to this music. Everything came very instinctively when we wrote the music. Nothing is taboo or off-limits. We try things and if they work and if it appears to be relevant and consistent, we keep it. This is just us now. At least a part of us, of course.
Is there a concept or theme to the album?
Not really, but yes!
When we were far enough into the compositional process to imagine releasing an album, we started thinking about the titles and the artwork. I had this photo set I shot at the time we started the composition and we used that for the cover and the booklet, and I thought that very evocative titles could be interesting for instrumental music. I love those kinds of short sentences with implied and double meanings – you don’t know if it is a joke or if it is too serious, but either way, it makes you think about it. I don’t know if it’s successful but that’s the idea. Every word has its place and is chosen at will, that’s why I used French, because you have to be comfortable enough with the language for that kind of exercise. I think that the music, the artwork and the titles really fit together in a coherent whole.
Thematically, the titles are about things that make me anxious, scared or sad. It’s almost all about the environment and politics and the way we as humans and how, as a small part of the intensively complex system that is life, we are about to destroy everything by our own stupidity. We’ve [humans] known for a while now that we have to seriously slow down to get a chance to save something, but nothing really happens. The people who could make decisions on a large scale, politicians and chiefs of industry and trade, do not seem to feel concerned. And the people in general don’t seem ready to give up any part of their comfortable modern lives. Anyway, things are gonna happen sooner or later and the only question is how tough it will be. It depends only on us and I’m not really optimistic.
Where did the name WuW come from?
We have a ready answer to that question: “WuW is the sound wind makes when it blows on a hot night, it’s a low-end murmur that grabs you by the guts, a blast of air rushing through the mountains and the oceans.”
In fact, it’s quite difficult to find a band’s name. It instantly corners you within a label or style and we didn’t want something too stereotypical, something too metal or too post-anything. We tried to find something abstract, evocative and simple at the same time, something that reflected our music.
Graphically, it can also be seen as a metaphor of the band: the two W (us) linked by the letter “u” which is the mathematical symbol for “union”.
Do you think spending time in other genres has allowed you to have a broader mind than many metal musicians, ultimately allowing you to write more unique and artistically free music?
I don’t know… all these experiences have made what we are today as musicians and WuW is an expression of that process, for sure. However, I don’t want to compare us to other musicians or state any general truths. I’m convinced that everybody is able to find his own personal way of expression, to create something unique. For instance, if you look at the thrash and death metal scene in the ’80s and early ’90s, all those guys were just kids and I’m not sure that most of them had a large experience nor a wide musical culture. But, they did make something new. As far as we are concerned, we have an aesthetical idea of what we want to do and we try to reach that point.
Do you think your relationship as brothers affects the music you write?
Yes, definitely! We’ve played music together since we were kids, we started playing together in metal bands when we were teenagers and we have almost always played in a band together since then, even if it was not metal or rock. We share a lot of musical influences, etc. We know each other very well, we can tell each other what we think without being diplomatic and there are no ego issues even if we sometimes disagree, so it is probably the best possible situation in which to create. It’s exactly the same as in any band, without the problems. Some great bands are known for being more creative when going through internal tensions, but that’s definitely not the case for us!
Do you plan to tour as WuW? How do you think your music would translate onstage?
It would be great to play our music on stage and I’m sure it would sound awesome, even if we would need to rearrange some of the tracks. However, we would need to hire live musicians, rehearse a lot and work hard to be strong enough to play live. To play that kind of music live requires a lot of practice together because it is often all about dynamics, sensibility, and finding the right energy. For now, our personal lives are quite busy and it’s unfortunately not a priority. But if we have interesting proposals…. who knows?
What inspires the music you write, musically or otherwise?
Nothing really specific, but what I can tell you is that we consider our music to be more sensory than cerebral – something quite cinematic, that stimulates the imagination. We like playing the same riff for several minutes while playing on small variations, different arrangements, evolutions…
In terms of musical influences, we listen to many different kinds of music. We still listen to metal in general and the old masterpieces of the ’90s I have already named, but also some new bands. Doom, sludge, drone, electro (Autechre, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Mondkopf, Ben Frost…), contemporary classical music, minimalism (Steve Reich, Philipp Glass…), post-rock, jazz, bands from the ’70s (King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Magma, Grateful Dead…) and many others.
Did you specifically set out with the intent to create something new and even innovative?
We try to do something different each time we work on a new track, just because we can’t imagine recording the same song ten times. Even if we play a very metal-oriented riff, we will try to use it in a surprising way or context. We just try to surprise ourselves, to put our music out of the traditional codes of the genre but at the same time stay heavy and dark.
Do you have any future plans for the project?
We are already working on new ideas and things are doing quite well. And we are thinking about new videos for some tracks from Rien Ne Nous Sera Épargné.
Rien Ne Nous Sera Épargné is out now via Prosthetic Records. Pick up a copy here.
Words: George Parr