Ben Van Alboom is a man of many talents. Based between Ghent and Brooklyn (yes, he leads that type of life), he’s not only a freelance journalist who dabbles in music and arts but also part of the team behind Red Bull Elektropedia, the Belgian nightlife platform. On top of his writing and semi-curatorial endeavours, he’ll be taking to the stage on December 16th at Brussels’ Wild Gallery to host, together with Marie-France Vodikulwakidi, this year’s Red Bull Elektropedia Awards. And it is in this capacity that we couldn’t resist asking him for his selection of favourite Belgian releases, adding a line to what is probably a monstrous monthly to-do list. “Apart from the fact that I’m not a digger nor a Belpop fanatic, you really couldn’t have asked me this at a busier time – running a marathon is nothing compared to organizing the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards. So brace yourself for the most random selection of (nonetheless all memorable) songs.”
The Red Bull Elektropedia Awards take place on 16th December at Wild Gallery, Brussels.
1. Cinérex – Feminax (From the Exit All Areas album, The Wack Attack, 1998)
In a perfect world, the first Cinérex album would have won a Mercury Music Prize. Of course, for that to have happened, the band would have needed to be British and – back in 1998 – they would have needed to defeat Gomez. Go who?! So, yeah, it would have actually been possible. In any case, I played Exit All Areas, the sample-heavy debut of Cinérex, like crazy in my room – I was still young at the time and living with my parents – and this track, which was co-written by Tom Barman, was definitely one of the standouts.
2. Kurt Van Eeghem – China Jon (Parsley, 1982)
I didn’t need a reminder from Italian cosmic god Daniele Baldelli, who made an edit of this track a few years ago, to know Kurt Van Eeghem is a genius, and a complete nutter. But for those who do need a reminder, listen to this classic cult cut from producer Jean-Marie Aerts.
3. Echo Beatty – Tidal Motions (From the Tidal Motions album, Icarus Records, 2013)
There are two things I remember distinctly about this track/album. 1. Thinking how ghostly it sounds. 2. Accidentally putting it on Facebook weeks before its release. Still really sorry about that, Icarus Records! Although I also still think it was your fault. ☺
4. Sandra Kim – J’aime la vie (From the J’aime la vie album, Carrère, 1986)
No, I don’t want to hear it. It’s a classic. And Laura Branigan would have made an excellent cover, if only someone had told her about it.
5. Styrofoam – A Heart Without a Mind (From the I’m What’s There to Show That Something’s Missing album, Morr, 2003)
Quite possibly the most underrated Belgian producer of the past fifteen years. Despite releasing a couple of excellent albums on Morr (during the German label’s heyday), Styrofoam remained a well-kept secret in Belgium. Shame. Though he’ll probably see his Spotify earnings skyrocket after millions of fellow countrymen are done reading my top ten.
6. Neven – Heads or Tails (From the Kokkola album, Different Recordings, 1998)
I should probably say something like ‘better than The Prodigy’ – to add some drama and make a chauvinistic point. I don’t know if it is better though, or if it’s even fair to compare this all but forgotten Belgian act to a gang of noisy clowns. But Neven sure did make a couple of decent tracks – like this one, famously ripping off dEUS ripping off Charles Mingus.
7. De Lama’s – De Ideale Penis (From De Ideale Penis, Donor, 1994)
I mean, seriously, in what other country on earth would someone make a pop song about ‘the ideal penis’ and succeed in having it played in heavy rotation on national radio?
8. Placebo – You Got Me Hummin’ (From the Ball of Eyes album, CBS, 1971)
Just like every other kid growing up in the ‘90s, I thought Placebo was little more than a lousy XTC pill or a whining British rock band, now waiting for an invite to play I Love the ‘90s or Pukkelpop’s main stage. Turns out it’s also the name of Marc Moulin’s first band – pre Telex – and a rich source of extremely groovy ‘70s jazz, which would have also made for the perfect soft-porn soundtrack.
9. Hooverphonic – Inhaler (From the A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular album, Sony, 1996)
Yes, I am fucking kidding you: Hooverphonic! Look, I didn’t grow up on R&S. I grew up on pop music, and some grunge. Then came Massive Attack and Portishead, and around that time I also saw this band play at the local ‘jeugdhuis’. For all you non-Belgians: ‘youth houses’ are government-funded bars where the underage youth go to get wasted. Yes, Belgium is even cooler than you thought. Anyway, so there was this unknown Belgian band playing there called Hoover (who later had to change its name to Hooverphonic because, as I recall, some vacuum cleaner company got mad), and I was just enthralled by their triphoppy sound. It’s only later they dropped the ‘trip’ and replaced the ‘h’ with a ‘p’.
10. Salvatore Acquaviva – Ma vie fout le camp
I felt I needed something special to end this top ten with. Won Ton Ton? The Boerenzonen Op Speed? Vive la Fête? Liliane Saint-Pierre? Oh, wait, what about that ‘kermiszanger’ (Dutch for extremely untalented wannabe singer) who believed Madonna had stolen the notes of his (completely unknown) song Ma vie fout le camp to write her (absolutely brilliant) song Frozen!? Now why would his song be of any relevance? Because the guy was actually able to convince a Belgian judge that Madonna did just that, and Frozen was banned from Belgian radio for many years (until finally a judge with more than seventeen brain cells overturned the copyright travesty). I mean, look, you can dig up all the Belgian cult tracks you want, not one will have a better and more unbelievable story than this one.