To mark the release of the Belgium Underground, an IOS and Android app that charts the country’s musical output from the early days of punk to today, we ask Benoit Deuxant (1966), one of the minds behind the phenomenal project, to select a few of his favourite Belgian releases. Taking in everything from punk and Krautrock to dark wave and house music, expect a history lesson in obscure, local vibes. Benoit will also be the guest on our FM Brussel show tonight from 21h to 22h.
1. Tuxedomoon « No Tears » (“No Tears ep” Not On Label (Tuxedomoon Self-released) 1978)
American expats Tuxedomoon forever changed the way I thought about music. It was impossible to pigeonhole them in any category, as they could switch from classical to jazz to experimental to pop within one single tune. I could have selected their whole career as my favourite track.
2. Les Tueurs de la lune de miel « Histoire à suivre » (« Honeymoon Killers – Tueurs de la lune de miel » Crammed Discs 1981)
Les Tueurs produced some of the strangest songs of the time. Crammed Discs founder Marc Hollander and fellow Aksak Maboul member Vincent Kenis joined the original line-up for this second album filled with weird stories and very unlikely hits like their cover of Charles Trenet’s ode to the Route Nationale 7.
3. Autumn « Synthesize » (“Synthesize”ep Micrart 1981)
A recently re-discovered gem. Autumn founder Peter Bonne published dozens of magnificent minimal wave albums on his own Micrart label with his various groups (Linear Movement, Wasteland, Twilight Rituals, Autumn, etc.) before co-founding the famed electro-body music band A Split-second.
4. Arbeit Adelt! “De man die alles noteert” (“Jonge Helden” 1983 Parlophone)
Absurdist Belgian humor on cold electronic music, Arbeid Adelt! produced perplexing songs in various languages like this French/Flemish trip through various streets of Brussels by a man who takes note of everything. After more than 20 years of absence, the group has recently reunited for a new album and tour.
5. 2Belgen “I Totter To My Feet” (“2Belgen” Antler 1983)
Another Flemish oddity, the duo (no kidding) 2Belgen assembled the falsetto voice of Rembert De Smet with Post-punk dub tunes with an ear for Caribbean and African music and another for electropop club classics. De Smet will go on under the name Ro Maron to produce an unbelievable quantity of new beat tracks under various aliases.
6. Bene Gesserit « Mickey, Please… » (from a cassette (1985) reissued on “The Minimal Wave Tapes Volume One” by Stones Throw Records & Minimal Wave 2010)
Alain Neffe (here with longtime partner Nadine Bal) is the founder of a dozen bands, and of the famed Insane Music label that produced an insane number of cassettes and vinyl compilation, collecting tracks from an international network of experimental musicians. He is at the center of this strange pre-internet, mail-order-based web that connected Tokyo to Charleroi and San Francisco to Erps-Kwerps.
7. Adult Fantasies ”The Sandman” (“For The Time Being” Integrity 1989)
Very underrated cult dandy band who made too few records and too few live appearances, but then again Dirck Seghers was probably quite busy programming so many great concerts at the Beursschouwburg for all these years.
8. Buffle “Jürgenstar” (Compilation Blokhiton Ubik 1999)
A quartet (sometimes less sometimes more) of tinkerers and bricoleurs who made an unlikely collision of drones, Krautrock and Soukouss. You never knew what to expect from them live, I must have seen them dozens of time and seen new and unpredicted things happen every time. A primitive pop supergroup with a fondness for the clumsy and the catchy.
9. Ultraphonist – How To Practice Scales (“Discover The Antistress With …” Foton records 2000)
A very special side-project of the people behind Jardin D’usure and Silk Saw, Ultraphonist was almost exclusively dedicated to low-frequencies, a radical exploration that was loud and subtle at the same time. Also a favourite live band, you never knew if the sound system or the ceiling would sustain the assault of bass and noise and ultra-low drones.
10. Ovil Bianca “Gravity” (“Gravity=Love” (K-RAA-K)³ – 2001)
One of the fine representatives of the Ghent underground scene around the (K-RAA-K)³ label with Köhn (with whom he often collaborated), Wio, the portables, Toss and many others, that came out at that time. It was a special period with a musical scene that was bridging post-punk, techno, experimental music.
11. Ming “une certaine beauté urbaine” (« Intérieur / Extérieur » Doxa 2001)
I could have chosen a great deal of great tracks from either Ming or les Brochettes, the group that came before them, or from every member’s following solo careers as Lem, Odessa or Arolde, but alas I had to select only one, so this one it is.
12. Pierre Normal « La Polonaise » (« Pierre Normal » Pneu 2007)
Electropop darkwave with a twist, half Swiss half Belgian band, transposing effortlessly eighties angst and gloom to the new millennium, and finding out with some melancholy that little has really changed.
13. Maan “Foor” (“Manifold” (K-RAA-K)³ 2013)
Also connecting the eighties wave scene to the present, young Flemish duo Maan take the darkest and coldest esthetics from the period and projects it in modern surroundings, making it more minimal and more radical with every appearance.
14. Lawrence Le Doux « Floor » (« Pollution » Vlek 2015)
One of latest projects of Laurent Baudoux, also of Sun Ok Papi KO, Fan Club Orchestra or Scratch Pet Land fame. A very personal take on electronic music, making deep house sound playful and children’s song sound deep.
15. Colombey « J’ai tout oublié » (“J’ai tout oublié” ep Lexi Disques 2015)
French expat TG Gondard remembers his previous life in various smalltowns of Northern France, not really with fond memories, but with poignant stories of wasted nights, lots of alcolhol, and heartbreaking flashbacks of generally feeling miserable.
Download the app here.