Only important Belgian albums are rewarded with a foreign release. Balthazar's "Applause" is a twofold milestone. It's the first debut since dEUS' "Worst Case Scenario" (1994) to be proclaimed best Belgian album of the year.
Balthazar is a musical "Belgitude". Just as Absynthe Minded, dEUS or Soulwax/2 Many DJs, it is a powerful blend of extremes. Edgy yet rhythmic, subdued yet enticing, precise yet enchanting. And intelligent. But "Applause" is also a tribute to diligence. The band had been popping in and out of the spot lights for the past five years, raking in recognition after recognition. But despite the media loving their songs, nothing seemed to solidify.
And then all of a sudden, there it is: game, set and match. "Applause" is a rare accolade to musical shrewdness. It's realistically ambitious. The musical influences linger, but do so playfully. A touch of Arctic Monkeys, Blur, dEUS, Gorillaz, LCD Soundsystem? Perhaps. Promising bands are always compared to a multitude of predecessors. As they are so true to themselves, they are difficult to pinpoint. Balthazar is such a prodigious band.
The sound is skinned and then fine-tuned. Its purity is a credit to Ynge Leidulv Sætre. The Norwegian wizard is brought on board because of his skills (Annie, Kings of Convenience, Röyksopp) and his open-mindedness. He doesn't know Belgium nor has he ever heard of Balthazar and the band is perfectly ok with that.
And then there it is. Shortly after the release of "Applause" it is as if Balthazar has always been around. Even though nobody quite knows the names of the drummer or the bass player, Balthazar is on its way to becoming a first rate live band. A band that easily connects to people and makes its audience spontaneously react. Tom Barman (dEUS) cries out for an encore during one of their concerts and "The Boatman" is played again....
"Applause" enters at #20 in leading Dutch music magazine Oor’s “end list” of 2010 ("... a precious debut... up there with Arctic Monkeys..."). Balthazar signs a record deal with Play It Again Sam and the official European release of "Applause" heralds the release of a second album in 2012. Balthazar is on the move.