This was initially meant to be a top 10 but rounding up Belgium’s yearly electronic output in less than 11 releases was simply impossible. Seems fitting in a year the entire country went football mad though, don’t you think. Then again, even that amount is too restrictive to really do justice to the sheer amount of (quality) releases that saw the light of day in Belgium this year. Newcomers, late bloomers and even confirmed musicians all converged to ensure the scene retained its reputation as a hotbed for experimentation and sheer hard work. In no particular order, and with absolutely no doubt that we’re about to piss off a few people here and there, here’s our very own overview of the sound coming out of Belgium today.
Veence Hanao – Loweina Laurae – Self-Released (February 2013)
Inspired videos, moody hiphop-based music and clever rhymes in an end-of-year list but it’s not Stromae. This is far deeper and came out six months earlier. Reaffirmed our belief in (French-spoken) MC’s and proved you don’t have to bring out the corny synth sounds to avoid being categorised as old school or golden era nostalgic. On the same tip but north of the language border we were pleasantly surprised by Brihang. A little more obvious but fresh nonetheless. Cannot wait to get more of the same in 2014 and hope Veence Hanao’s onstage partner Zomb. releases more than the odd beat on obscure compilations.
Various – Chrome Brulée presents Kiss The Hiss Vol. 1 – Self-Released (June 2013)
A few live shows, a couple of funny videos and a ridiculously hard to find tape (I’ve heard people very close to Chrome Brulée doubt its existence but I can confirm it’s real) was all they needed to create a major buzz. 2014 is theirs to take.
Hiele – Hiele EP – Ekster (June 2013)
It’d be a while since a first release on a new label had made such an impression. Wildly diverse in style and insanely tight on the quality tip – probably our favourite release of the year, bar none. Ekster stayed on the same steady diet with further releases by Hantrax and Jack-N-Riot. Always well-designed, always hits the spot just right.
VUURWERK – Me + One – Dandelion Lotus Records (March 2013)
Great roundup of their work so far for those who have been following since the beginning and an excellent introduction for all the others. Add some solid live performances to that and you know they are ready to convert a wider public to their gospel.
Sagat – Satellite EP – Vlek (July 2013)
Stellar year for this producer with not only a tight follow-up EP to his debut release but a Bepotel EP too (Walrus + &apos + Sagat), both out on Vlek. Quirky, inventive and heavy texturized techno that appeals to those seeking it at the deeper ends of the musical spectrum. Check out his Bepotel-colleague Walrus’ self-released album too.
Dynooo – Mesh N2 Air –Astro:Dynamics (August 2013)
Very glad the world finally seems to be picking up on Dynooo. His latest release, Mesh N2 Air sees the now London-based producer stretch the meaning of electronic music to its limit, beautifully layering pare down streams of soundscapes upon one another to create a sound that can only be described as his own . One day the genius of his and Nosedrip’s now defunct label Surf Kill will be universally recognised.
Various – Summer Sampler 2013 – On-Point Records (June 2013)
This compilation of sorts brings together some of the Brussels-based imprint‘s finest release this year. Billy Palmier and The Essence both released great EPs of their own but this one holds the two absolute gems you will find on On-Point records in 2013: Jazz Neversleeps’ Linh and Seiren’s Tin Man Drowning. Though the label might not walk a straight line, the path it follows is an interesting one which has passed more than a few must-hear landmarks like these.
74 Miles Away – Gear Change – Self-Released (May 2013)
Jazz meets beats. Second album of this joint venture between MonkeyRobot and jazzmen Pierre Anckaert and Stefan Bracaval. Best enjoyed live but the album has more than a few outstanding cuts on it. Title track is a stormer.
Jun Nagaosa – Remixes – DRLR (August 2013)
The Kassett remix is one of the top tracks of this year. Love everything about the label. Young people releasing their own wayward stuff they way they see fit. Like a 15 minute cassette tape limited to 15 copies of the FRIS EP. Lovely certainly when the quality of the music keeps up with the gimmicks. Clearly one to watch in 2014.
Various – Rubber Beats vol. IV – Caoutchou (September 2013)
Handy releases like these give us the chance to namedrop a lot of great acts that have popped up this year. Seiren, 6SISS (check his “Watching The Monoliths Rise” album on the same label), STUFF. (who recorded a mix for us earlier this year) and Necktalk / Freddy Bracker all released interesting stuff in 2013. Celebrating its 5th birthday this year, Caoutchou is one of the leading exponents of the new wave of labels in Belgium releasing off-centre electronic music. Other ones to keep an eye out for are Tangram (LTGL, Blatan, Uphigh Collective, Moodprint), Xtraplex (OHM META) and Thin Consolation (Sun Papa & Lawrence Le Doux, Spongemagnet).
Internal Sun – Internal Sun EP – Self-Released (March 2013)
This EP deserved far more attention than it received. Subtle and complex rhythms combined with exquisite visuals made this one of the strongest releases of the year. If you like this do check out BRZZVLL, another project where Internal Sun’s Andrew lends his musical skills to.
Various – The Sound Of Belgium Soundtrack – La Musique Fait La Force
The movie conquered the nation and the compilation that followed achieved nothing less. The EP with Decap organ versions of “Universal Nation”, “Age Of Love” and “The Attic” is a must have for any self-respecting record collector with a penchant for the Belgian.
Various – Institute For Psychoacoustics And Electronic Music (IPEM) – 50 Years Of Electronic And Electroacoustic Music At The Ghent University – Metaphon
Documents the country’s electronic contributions in the world of music. Essential for anyone interested in Belgian and electronic music. Also comes with a book.
Three producers to watch in 2014:
1. Le Motel / Yellowstraps