Best Belgian releases of 2016 so far (Part 1)

With already half of 2016 gone by, time has come to take the pulse of the Belgian underground and hone in on some of our favourite Belgian releases so far. In this first part of a two-part series, we go from Brussels rap to Antwerp reissues and everything in-between in no particular order, handpicking 15 releases we believe stand out and stand proud. Look out for part two coming end of week.

1.Romeo Elvis & Le Motel – Morale (Back in the Dayz)

One of the stellar releases of the start of the year saw two of the city’s most exciting and promising forces – rapper Roméo Elvis and producer Le Motel – pair up for a concept album that raised the bar high, real high, for local rap. Roméo Elvis’ crisp delivery and singular voice coupled with Le Motel’s boom bap beats made for the perfect combination. One we played over, and over, and over again on our weekly radio show.

2.Cocaine Piss – Cosmic Bullshit (Hypertension Records) 

The second instalment in Cocaine Piss‘ series of singles releases sees the crust-punk outfit from Liège put out Cosmic Bullshit, a track off their upcoming album (announced for October 2016) recorded by none other than Steve fucking Albini in Chicago back in February. Released both digitally and as a 7″, with two Cocaine covers by Ghinzu and Peggy Lee Cooper included for good measure and artwork by Ultra Eczema’s Denis Tyfus.

3.Front de Cadeaux – The Gift EP (Subfield)

Following Le PEDé BMP (2014) and Infodrogues (2015), Brussels’ DJ Athome and Rome’s Hugosan released their debut EP, The Gift, on Brussels’ Subfield imprint in May. Consisting of four tracks, the EP sees the pair delve further into their signature sound of slow-paced, quasi-psychedelic disco, complete with a remix by Factory Floor’s Gabe Gurnsey. For those who like their disco dark (Killers) and dirty (Ouvre ta bouche).

4.Mont Doré – Fractures (Black Basset Records)

The second album by Brussels screamo-hardcore five piece Mont Doré sees the band improve on their debut release, with a bigger and bolder sound. Released digitally, as a 12″ that comes in a beautiful screen-printed PVC oversleep or even as a tape (red, no less, and with a 8-page booklet).

5.Soulwax – Belgica Original Soundtrack (Play it Again Sam)

A movie, directed by Belgian boy-wonder Felix van Groeningen, that documents the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations of two party-hard brothers and whose score was produced, back to front, by Soulwax. Not to be outdone nor outshone, the prolific producers created 16 fictional bands in line with the film’s plot, each with their own single, and called that a soundtrack. And, as usual, it is pure and simple genius from start to finish.

6.DMX Krew – New Age Travellers (Ekster)

One of our favourite releases of the year hands down, DMX Krew releases on Antwerp’s Ekster and completely smashes anything in its way.  It is, as the label’s website aptly suggests, “The perfect soundtrack for bedrooms, late night dinners and greenhouses” and sees the UK-based DJ, producer and label owner compose a series of short, sweet and stripped-down synth interludes that work magnificently well together. Minimal electronic music for the new age, and it hits the spot just right.

7.Jean Jass & Caballero – Double Hélice (Back in the Dayz)

Phenomenal collaborative album by Charleroi rapper-producer JeanJass and Brussels rapper Caballero, who share common passions for football, Polo sweatshirts and dextrous bars. Production-wise, the album is both ambitious and adventurous, going from laid-back, quasi-backpack rap (Yessai) to stadium stompers (Repeat and Merci Beaucoup). This is Belgium rap standing high and proud, and understandably so.

8.Various – Underground Wave Volume 5 (Walhalla Records)

The fifth instalment in Antwerp reissue label Walhalla Records’ famed Underground Wave series. Limited to 500 copies, with the 100 first copies including an insert signed by some of the artists on the compilation. Also includes Dead Man Industry’s Disorientation in Grey, a beautiful, Joy Division-like DIY instrumental recorded by two brothers from Salem, New Jersey. A definite for any self-respecting no, new, minimal and synth wave collector.

9.Strapontin – Pedigree (La Belle Records) 

Brussels-based French producer Strapontin’s latest release Pedigree, the follow-up to 2015’s Carbon, is a five-track EP of dark disco debauchery and deep house. It is, as his Bandcamp suggests, perfect for “dirty basement parties to early morning couch confessions.” and we couldn’t agree more. Check out an exclusive mix he recorded for us here.

10.Fluwelen Koord -Luxe Poesjes (Ultra Eczema) 

Non-music, no wave and noisy art punk howled out in Flemish. Released as a 7″ on Antwerp’s Ultra Eczema, this is raw, uncut and unpolished noise for the ADD generation.Read our interview with the Borgerhout-based four-piece here.

11.Jardin – A girl with a dog in a rave (Le Turc Mechanique)

Moody and ethereal electronic from Brussels-based producer Jardin, who also provides vocals on some of the tracks. The album, which first came out in 2014 but was recently re-released on vinyl in January, reveals a wide-range of influences, from Chicago house to London punk. Read an interview we ran with the prolific producer here, and listen to an exclusive mix he recorded for us here.

12.André Brasseur – Lost gems from the 70s (SDBAN/N.E.W.S) 

As its name suggests, a compilation that brings together some of André Brasseur’s most famous instrumental (for the most part) compositions. A legendary organist and keyboard player that has gained cult status amongst producers, rare groove collectors and sample specialists alike, Brasseur’s monumental career is, unfortunately, not as well documented as it deserves, something this release (as well as a few upcoming live dates during the summer) good on. Available either as a Deluxe Limited Edition two-CD boxset including a 36p booklet of liner notes and cover art or as a two-LP vinyl gatefold 2LP.

13.Hypochristmutreefuzz x It It Anita – The Split (Luik Records) 

Ghent’s Hypochristmutreefuzz and Liège’s It It Anita join forces on this split release out on Luik. Hypo laces it with The Spitter, a funky and somewhat psychedelic cut, whilst It It Anita keeps things resolutely post-rock with The Lux, a powerful track complete with cowbell and all.

14.Maoupa Mazzochetti – Laugh Tool (Mannequin Records)

Maoupa Mazzocchetti’s debut album sees the prolific, under-the-radar Brussels-based producer pay tribute to the earlier days of electro-industrial (think Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and our very own Front 242) with his signature DIY and punk ethos. (most of his output is recorded in his bedroom without any professional equipment). An absolute masterpiece of electronic music arrangement that’ll grow on you with every listen.

15.Black Flower – Ghost Radio (Zephyrus)

Afrobeat outfit Black Flower came back to the fore in March with a follow-up to their excellent debut Abyssinian Afterlife. A tad more experimental and hypnotic, Ghost Radio sees the band edge a little closer to dub and free jazz territories, leading its ensemble of keys, sax, cornet, flutes and percussions in a more ambient and cosmic direction. A beautifully arranged album, lush and generous.