Kristof Vandenhende handpicks 10 iconic New Beat tracks

Three decades on from the all-encompassing yet short-lived New Beat craze, music-obsessed writer Kristof Vandenhende (1974) was right to seize the occasion to announce his newest project, a double Belgian New Beat-related release through the form of a book and four-CD compilation. And is that weren’t enough, the Keerbergen native is taking over Ghent’s Vooruit this Saturday for a New Beat launch party, quite naturally. And word on the street is that this is to be one of many, too. Ahead of his double release party, Kristof selects his 10 essential Belgian New Beat tracks for us. Utterly spoilt.

Front 242 – First In/First Out (1988)

For me, my passion for music started with Luc Janssen on BRT2, who introduced me to bands like Front 242. Before that, I mainly listened to punk music – think The Clash, Dead Kennedy’s, GBH,… EBM is like punk music from out-space; like the 80s band Sigue Sigue Sputnik, but much more authentic.

The Klinik – Burning Inside (1985)

I like my dance music dark, oppressive and even bit frightening, like the soundtrack to a horror movie. That’s why I adore bands like The Klinik – they know how to sound trashy.

Snowy Red – Euroshima (Wardance) (1982)

During the 80s, Snowy Red’s The Right to Die LP was a very expensive and hard-to-find vinyl. Today it’s a classic and available everywhere for free. Back then, it would easily take you several years to finally find that one track you heard a couple of times before at your favourite nightclub. Even today I’m still searching for a few unknown records I heard in the 80s.

SM – SM (1988)

New Beat started out as an eclectic mix of different styles and sounds – there were no rules at all. This track proves that New Beat sometimes can be totally different from what you might aspect, like a drum computer going mad. The B-side of this record is less aggressive and even more avant-garde.

Shakti – The Awakening (1988)

This track sounds exactly how New Beat should truly sound in my eyes: dark, slow, rhythmic, exotic, dirty, sexy and a bit frightening. They played this kind of music in huge mainstream and high-end nightclubs for an audience wearing high heels and drinking cocktails.

Arbeid Adelt – De Man die Alles Noteert (1983)

The A-side of a very expensive and rare vinyl record during the 80s, everyone wanted this 7” for it’s B-side Death Disco, a Public Image Ltd cover. Even this slow track was considered dance music in the 80s: standing passively, looking around and staying “cool” on the dancefloor was just another way of dancing back then. Standing on the dancefloor meant they approved of the DJ’s selection.

Aroma Di Amore – De Dobberman (1983)

I’m a fan of Belgian Cold Wave – Aroma Di Amore was the Flemish alternative to The Smiths. This was the music you listened to on your bed for hours and hours, feeling sorry for yourself after another sad breakup.

Jo Lemaire – Je Suis Venue Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais (1981)

Even Serge Gainsbourg liked this cover version over his own original. Belgian dance music and even pop music sounds unique in a lot of ways – slow, dark and drowsy, a bit like our weather. That’s why that “sound of Belgium” is so recognisable.

101 – Saigon Nightmare (1988)

I really loved New Beat in 1988: every week would see another pile of new records and sounds being released, even more aggressive and painful to the ears than the week before. You had to find the right nightclubs or local radio stations to be able to listen to these tracks. I still remember when I finally got my hands on 101’s Rock to the Beat, playing it over and over again. And finally flipping to th B-side, and discovering that it’s even better than the A-side.

De Nief Biets – Nief Stukske Muziek (1989)

The New Beat mania became overly commercialised after a year or two – even Rocco Granata and Eddy Wally were jumping on the New Beat bandwagon, signalling the end of New Beat. This record proves that sometimes it’s not so easy to distinguish New Beat from Nougat Beat.

The Belgian New Beat Party will be held at Ghent’s Vooruit this Saturday 24th March, with none other than Praga Khan’s Maurice Engelen and legendary Boccaccio resident DJs manning the decks.
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