Favourite Belgian releases: Laurent Fintoni

French-born Laurent Fintoni (1979) is a journalist who specializes in music and culture. With a proven track record in all-things hip hop, electronic and Belgian, he reveals five of his all-time favourite Belgian releases.

1. De Puta Madre – Une Ball Dans La Tete, 1995, 9mm Recordz, Une Ball Dans La Tete.

My teenage years were soundtracked by hip-hop and rap. I consumed a lot of American rap even though I had little understanding of the context of its lyrics. In contrast, French rap was much more involving, talking about things I saw and could relate to. De Puta Madre was a favourite in my teens, and I guess the first Belgian band I ever got into.

2. Grazzhoppa’s DJ Big Band + Aka Moon – Live at K.V.S Brussels, 2007

I got my chops as a writer in the world of turntablism. I graduated from university in 2002 and my final thesis focused on turntablism’s musical worth. From then on, I continued to explore and document this niche of a niche within hip-hop culture for a few years and that’s how I came across Grazzhoppa (who had a hand in De Puta Madre’s record if I remember well). A DJ from Bruges, Grazzhoppa has had a long and fruitful career and the DJ Big Band project is perhaps one of his most interesting achievements. Taking the idea of the DJ as a musician with turntables as instruments, to one of its most logical conclusions, the DJ Big Band brought together Belgian and Dutch artists and this live concert is one of the best representations of what they were capable of and what turntablism can do.

3. Non + Herrmutt Lobby – Welcome To Hell, 2009, Catune, Hunter.

Herrmutt Lobby are one of my favourite Belgian acts, a loose collective of producers, DJs and tech heads focused around a duo. Their 2009 album with Los Angeles rapper Non is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the gems of the so-called beat scene and it flew under most people’s radar. Released via Japanese label Catune it’s full of beautifully disjointed productions and clever raps. ‘Off-beat’ (as I believe the Belgians referred to these kinds of production) is easily done and often lacks any real soul. With this album Herrmutt proved that it was possible to imbue the music with a real sense of identity and history.

4. Ssaliva – Yet Another Vase, 2012, Vlek, Sync Thrills.

Vlek Records are good friends. They first invited me to Brussels back in 2010 and were partially responsible for me moving there in 2014. Their work has been an inspiration and the care and detail they put into manufacturing is next to none. Their releases are beautiful products, and I know that they’ll stand the test of time in that regard. Ssaliva’s Sync Thrills is a release I worked on – writing a short sci-fi story for its press kit – and it remains one of my favourites from the catalogue, a woozy collection of productions that could be the sound of falling asleep today or walking around the future, drugged out, yet restless.

5. JtotheC & The Bad Mothas – Sweet RendezVous, 2012, On Point, Sweet RendezVous remixes.

On Point is another label I became good friends with in the late 2000s when I first met Alex Deforce, its founder (who at the time ran a blog under the same name). In 2012 they released this remix EP of JtotheC’s Sweet RendezVous, a gorgeous cut of groovy soul. The EP also includes a remix from Sleepin Giant, an Amsterdam-based producer. In their previous lives both JtotheC and Sleepin Giant were involved in the turntablist/scratch world, and that’s where I first discovered them. To see and hear their musical progressions has been particularly interesting. In the case of Sleepin Giant I went on to work with him and release his first EP a few years later. I don’t think many people would point to Belgium as the first place for quality soul music, but the country has produced some particularly outstanding cuts during this decade, including this one.