The Grammy-nominated electronic duo Sofi Tukker has dropped their sophomore album ‘WET TENNIS,’ a jubilant invitation to dance our way out of the woes of the world.
The sonic equivalent of a merry summer day spent with friends beside a pool, WET TENNIS is the group’s statement of rebellion in the face of the shitstorm that has swept the world over the last two years. Be it the first pandemic of the new century, a global financial crisis, or the myriad of mental health problems caused by the lockdowns, Sofi Tukker encourages their audience to be resilient and keep moving forward.
The very title of the album encompasses their optimistic outlook; WET TENNIS is an acronym that stands for When Everyone Tries to Evolve, Nothing Negative Is Safe.
“WET TENNIS is about forward movement and optimism, no matter what the challenge. Negativity will happen, but it won’t stick around for long when we fully embrace and flow through it,” the duo posted on Twitter.
During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sofi Tukker decided to stream a live DJ set every single day with rigorous discipline as a way to cope with the frustration and isolation. They managed to play almost 400 shows during 17 consecutive months, a virtual tour that turned them into one of the most popular live streamed acts of the world in 2020, a remarkable, and no doubt ironic feat during a time when live music was practically non-existent. This experiment not only helped them grow a loyal global fanbase —who call themselves “the Freak Fam,”— but allowed them to test and polish the ideas that eventually would become WET TENNIS.
The new album comes four years after their debut LP Treehouse, and six years after their breakthrough hit ‘Drinkee’ took over the world with its virulent guitar riff and exotic panache. Since then, the duo has progressively strayed away from their initial indie appeal, moving closer to a more polished mainstream sound. The core of their music has always been the same, Sofi Tukker is an act that brilliantly combines electric guitar and infectious house beats with elements of world music. But at the start of their career, their efforts had a cruder edge, their song structure tinged with a sense of unpredictability. Their sound today is cleaner, much more structured and digestible; for better, or for worse, they’re slowly, but surely becoming a smooth, pop-tinged brand of electronica destined to rule the big EDM festivals of the world.
In their single ‘Original Sin,’ they showcase again the effective vocal interplay that has become a staple of their output, contrasting Sophie Hawley-Weld’s ethereal voice with Tucker Halpern’s deep grovel. The track drops the guitar so characteristic of their sound in favour of a predominant fat bass, stinging hi-hats and repeating stanzas that take over your brain before you know it.
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The guitar comes back with a roar in ‘Kakee’ (which means persimmon in Portuguese) a track written in tandem with the Brazilian poet Chacal, long time collaborator of the band. The rich-sounding reverberating riff —reminiscent of something Los Lobos would do— coexists with an exuberant rhythmic base made out of claps, hi-hats and cowbells.
“I’m not Sophie, I’m a persimmon… the juice of the persimmon is on my nose and on my chest, so sexy,” serenades Sophie Hawley-Weld in exquisite Portuguese.
More exotic experiments can be found in tracks like ‘Larry Bird,’ — an ode to the famous NBA legend— a tune that makes extensive use of steel drums and shakers, and ‘Freak,’ which ingeniously combines drum and bass with Sophie Hawley-Weld’s electric guitar.
The album includes cracking collaborations, including Turkish disc jockey and record producer Mahmut Orhan in the beautifully agonising tale of heartbreak ‘Forgive Me,’ and the participation of African superstars Amadou & Mariam in the multilingual crowdpleaser ‘Mon Cheri.’
Probably one of the most pleasant surprises in WET TENNIS is the closing track of the album, a simple, yet effective cover of Louis Armstrong’s 1967 single, ‘What a Wonderful World.’ Not an easy feat to remake one of the most famous songs ever made, the duo replaces the orchestral string arrangements of the original with a lonely accoustic guitar that gracefully tiptoes over downtempo, minimal percussion. The result takes away the melancholy of Armstrong’s iconic rendition, replacing it for a newfound sense of tropical optimism that serves as a mighty state of intent for the whole album. Basically, they managed to shift the iconic tune from blue, to a very bright yellow.
All in all, Sofi Tukker’s second album feels like a step forward in a road from niche indie sensation to worldwide pop phenomenon.
Their live sets are a flamboyant spectacle full of positive vibes that combine traditional Dj’ing with live instruments, singing and real-time sampling. In the upcoming tour in support of WET TENNIS, the duo seeks to redefine the concert experience with a new show that will fuse the concept of live music with live sport. The crowd would be involved in physical games guided by the songs and performances on stage.
Following their headlining gigs at the CRSSD festival and their show at Belly Up Aspen in benefit of the Red Cross Ukraine, Sofi Tukker will kick off the WET TENNIS world tour on the 21st of May in Washington, D.C.
The duo will be coming to Australia this July to play in The Grass Festival, with dates in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. You can find more information on tickets, dates and availability on their official site.
WET TENNIS out now via Ultra.