WAAN represents the musical marriage of seasoned saxophonist Bart Wirtz and keyboard wiz Emiel van Rijthoven. As a pair of self-confessed tech nerds hailing from The Netherlands, their bromance was a slow burning one, but nevertheless their eventual collaboration fulfilled a dream that they’d both held close since first working together back in 2010. With influences as disparate as Floating Points, Belgian band Stuff, BadBadNotGood and Eddie Harris, the album is far more complex than just being a dance music influenced jazz record. Co-producer Oscar de Jong, of Kraak & Smaak fame, encouraged the pair to play freely as part of a jazz group and then add the electronic elements.
The pair’s first meeting, though, was a somewhat forced affair. It occurred in 2010 at the Paradox club – an esteemed jazz venue in Tilburg, in the southern Netherlands. It was the club’s open-minded approach of inviting musicians of different styles to play together as an ensemble that finally got Bart and Emiel in the same room. They wrote and played together, and quickly formed a deep bond. Their styles complemented each other perfectly, they listened to each other, and both shared a desire to play expansive, experimental music.
This turned out to be something of a singular encounter though, and the duo didn’t connect again until Bart asked Emiel to join him in the studio five years later. The saxophonist had been looking for a synth and keys player to help take his music to more out-there places, and Emiel fit the bill perfectly. Having tried to involve the whole band in the creative process, Bart realised that his writing relationship with Emiel was the only one that clicked and, taking the music recorded with the band as a starting point, the duo we now know as WAAN (a Dutch word meaning “craze”) were formed. Consequently, the pair began to work with session musicians, keeping their vision solely between the two of them, and found themselves behaving more like dance music producers than traditional band leaders.
The new dynamic worked though, the result being their debut album Echo Echo.