Best Belgian releases of 2016 so far (Part 2)

Part two of our mid-2016 overview of the best releases out of the Belgian underground. Check out part 1 here.

1. Shungu – Reallife III

With his latest collection of beats, Reallife III self-released on his Bandcamp in April, Brussels-based beat-maker Shungu perfects his signature sound of dusty samples, boom bap kicks and flavoured flips (Redman, D’Angelo and Snoop all get twisted) in customary soul-jazz fashion. Although easy, comparisons to Madlib, J Dilla and the likes aren’t all that far fetched.

2. Brzzvll – First let’s dance, A ‘Nuff Said celebration ft. Amir Sulaiman (Zephyrus Records)

Clean-cut funk with hints of afrobeat and jazz. This is Brzzvll’s second concept album (and fifth album in all) that sees the outfit pair-up with a spoken word artist (in this case, Amir Sulaiman, considered the godfather of spoken word and poetry jams ‘Nuff Said) to delightful effect. Centred around the compositions of Vincent Brijs, the band continues in its spirit of rare grooves that bring out your best dance moves.

3. Ignatz – The Drain (Kraak)

Absolutely and totally hair-raising, the sheer beauty of Ignatz’s work remains a constant force on the underground, fringe local circuit. Timeless in its essence, Ignatz – the stage name for Belgian artist Bram Devens – constructs pared-down folk that takes inspiration from blues with typically Belgian melancholy, with each song driven by Devens’ sparse, echoing vocals. It’s minimalistic and, at times, even fragile. But oh-so-fucking beautiful. Try the track “My Children” for instance. Goosebumps galore.

4. Sky H1 – Motion (Codes)

Released on the sister label of Berlin-based PAN, Brussels producer Sky H1’s new EP, Motion, heralds a new departure, one which sees the budding talent reach for her inner self in a bid to, as she puts it, “step into something new.” Emotionally layered, the EP combines chopped up atmospheres and rhythmic incursions  together with just the right type of vocals to create the kind of ambient pop that’s set to take the world over. Full EP set for release on 15th July.

5. Baleine 3000 – The Nap (Vlek)

Offbeat and oddball rap, with Brussels-based producer Lawrence Le Doux, French DJ Afrojaws and Japanese MC Illreme/Jun Kamoda at the helm. Set for release on 29th July, the album’s first track – The Nap – is a dreamy and dusty piece of goofball hip hop, the kind of track that could slip itself into your summer playlist with no one noticing.

6. Capelo – Utrecht (Lexi Disques)

Brussels-based duo Capelo makes the kind of lo-fi synth-driven digital ballade that could soundtrack your father’s favourite 1970s porn flick. The 15th release on Catherine Plenevaux’s excellent Lexi Disques imprint, the seven-inch comes complete with artwork by Félix Gastout and screen-print by Vlek’s Dimitri Runkari.

7. Hiele – Ritmische Bezinning (Ekster)

Describing Hiele’s output is never an easy feat, but words such as acid, electronic, abstract and techno go some way in setting the tone. Driven by the Antwerp-based producer’s signature layered compositions and experimental tendencies, this third release on record label Ekster sees the ambiguous and, to some, prodigal talent hone his skills and mature his sound to dizzying effet. Precise yet playful, each of the seven track on this release limited to 300 copies could very well go on to become your favourite ringtone in the year 3030.

8. Damso – Batterie Faible (92I / Capitol Music France)

With singles such as Débrouillard, Bruxelles Vie and Periscope having already done the rounds, Brussels-based rapper Damso’s much-anticipated debut album, Batterie Faible set for release on Friday 8th July, promises to be epic, if only because of its game-changing capacity for the local scene. Indeed, with a much-publicised support and signing by Booba – the grand-daddy of French gangster rap – Damso has managed to firmly establish the country as a force to be reckoned with. And, if you move beyond the highly explicit nature of his lyrical content, the sheer artistic breath of Damso’s calibre should lay any moral conundrum you may feel to rest. For Damso is to Brussels what Skepta is to London, or what A$AP Ferg is to New York. A. True. Local. Don.

9. Various – Spent (Thin Consolation)

A 22-track compilation from the Ghent-based beat imprint with contributions from Cupp Cave, Spongemagnet, Herrmutt Lobby, Freddy Bracker, Aidons Antoine, LBNHRX, Johnny Superglu and many more up-and-coming luminaries. Released in May, this is electronic hip hop for the connaisseur.

10. 30,000 Monkies – I Ate Myself to Grow Rice Twice as Big (Consoling Sounds)

The debut full-length release by Beringen-based sludge-doom-drone-noise outfit 30,000 Monkies follows two already well-received EPs and continue in the band’s knack for experimental rock with heavy psychedelic undertones. Out on Ghent’s ever excellent Consouling Sounds, which we recently profiled here.

11. Colombey – Colombey (Pouet! Schallplatten)

Synth-driven pop, punk-perfected productions and what is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful album covers we’ve seen in a while all combine in this side-project of Brussels-based French producer TG Gondard. A mesmerising piece of work that oscillates between hard-nosed narratives reminiscent of Christophe Clébard and highly introspective revelations to result in a frank and frontal album.

12. Asa Moto – Stay Awake / Wanowan Efem (Deewee Records)

Not very much information is available on the Deewee-signed, Ghent-based electronic duo Asa Moto, other than the fact that it is fronted by Oliver Geerts (who also contributed to the Belgica original soundtrack with the track Hot December alongside Charlotte Adigéry) and Gilles Noë and delves into the kind of synth-driven, deep house perfect for summer notes. Look out for an exclusive mix the duo is set to record for us in the coming weeks.

13. Èlg – Mauve Zone (Nashazphone)

As we recently wrote in the introduction of a selection of favourite Belgian releases he made for us, Èlg’s latest release combines puzzling structures, harsh electronics, skin and bones folk and outer-world lullaby to dizzying effect. Set for release on Egyptian imprint Nashazphone in the next few days, this is not for the faint-hearted.

14. Kassett – U (M M O O O)

Although we’re not too keen on the terminology, Antwerp-based Kassett makes the kind of beat and ambient music that, like it or not, can best be described as vapour wave. With guest spots by Brussels’ Samuelspaniel, Faeriey and rapper-provocateur Wulfy Benzo, the album takes as a starting point rap to then go in a completely different, and distinctive, direction. The kind of music future hip hop heads will be vibing too.

15. Tav Exotic – Biocosmos (Vlek)

Psychedelic electronic brought to you by prolific musician Ernesto Gonzales (Bare Bones, Lay Low) and Michael Crabbé (Weird Dust). Tav Exotic’s debut release on Vlek, Biocosmos, is steeped in an analog approach (they eschew “goddamn laptops”) and takes from kraut-rock, techno and ambient to produce a unique blend of dance music to trip out to. A times hard-edged and at others soft-spirited, the release was recorded in live takes and released in April.