Listen to the latest Knekelhuis Mix Series on Soundcloud: Knekelhuis # 94 – Hysterical Love Project 

Releases music that demands your attention.

Releases music that demands your attention.

Love and Language


Stacks is the Belgian duo of Jan and Sis Matthé. These Antwerp residents build and undress different timbres and textures into vocal-hooked songs, flouting the rules of pop in the process. We at Knekelhuis appreciate this immensely and are delighted to work with them. ‘Love and Language’ is a romantic, moody pop-not-pop record in which everything falls perfectly into place.

Mastering by Wouter Brandenburg
Mixed by Jan Matthé, Sis Matthé, Yves De Mey

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Smoove ’80s-inspired electronic pop bizz from this Belgian duo. Basically sounds like slowed down versions of Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’ produced by a stoned Phil Collins (“Face Value” era), and that’s no bad thing.

Comprised of Antwerp-based brothers Jan and Sis Matthé, Stacks is an exercise in nostalgia and not an unsuccessful one. The two have already rattled through a bunch of ideas, refining their sound on albums like 2020’s “Our Body Memory”, but “Love and Language” is their most successful set to date. Here they channel their experiences and influences into eight tracks of melancholy pop that dare to fetishize an era of overblown excess, then reduce it to a near-whisper. Both brothers have an extensive history playing in local indie rock bands – including the successful White Circle Crime Club – but keep the instrumentation low key, preferring to recapture the gated electronic rhythms and soft pads of the early 1980s.

‘Above Ground’ is an early highlight, with squashed drums (think ‘In the Air Tonight’) and anthemic vocals that split the difference between Toto and Alphaville. ‘Oh You’ adds a dub techno-infused shake to the duo’s soft pop excess, curling vocoded vocals around delayed synth spikes and white noise hiss, while ‘To Be Near’ turns the histrionics to 11, playing cloud-punching vocals against bit-crushed drums and brassy analog synths. 


Bandcamp commenter James Cox says “Stacks are hot. Kate Bush is suddenly popular again. This is pretty similar to “Hounds of Love” era Bush.” I’d say he’s right on two points! Stacks’ beautiful Love And Language album certainly exists in that same Kate Bush / Stranger Things / emo-retro-synth expanded universe, but this Belgian duo is far more refined than anything that might find itself marketed as Funkopop collectibles. They’ve got a sensual romance thing going deep in these tracks, like if Enigma had beautifully-sung lyrics instead of sampled Gregorian chants, or if Portable went fully downtempo after a soul-shaking heartbreak. This is synth-pop on a bleary 3 AM awake-in-bed tip, searching through the club in a futile attempt to find your lover who already left. The songs are pretty slow, and heavy on synthesized pianos and keys… these tunes could easily translate on acoustic instrumentation but instead are deployed with subtle grace and rich electronic textures. The singing is almost church-like, delivered so earnestly that it’s easy to forget how irony- and sarcasm-poisoned we all are, though Choir Boy has prepared me for the relatively calmer voices of Stacks. In many ways, there’s a similar feel to my favorite synth-pop Swedes Kite, though Kite present themselves in booming ostentation, and Stacks are far more low-key, not breaking a single sweat through the entirety of this record. Knekelhuis favors artists who fully inhabit their own individual worlds, Stacks being the most recent one to do it.

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