Some recent writings.

articlesimageLately, I wrote quite a few articles about several topics. Firstly, I would like to mention a short, biographical text I did for art photographer Valentina Stellino, which you can find here. For Antwerp’s Fotografiemuseum (Fomu), I was appointed as an expert to write pieces about five selected artists for the Portfolio Days of the museum, in the framework of a project called Braakland. My contributions about Ville Anderssen, Zaza Bertrand, Hendrik Braet, Aurore Dal Mas and Dieter Daemen were written in Dutch and translated in English, and can be read here. Furthermore, I produced an extensive feature about the twentieth anniversary of UK techno label Blueprint for the online platform about dance music Pulse, including interviews with artists James Ruskin, Oliver Ho, Mark Broom and Surgeon; read it here. This summer, Antwerp’s M HKA museum put up an exhibition about rave culture; I reviewed it critically for the cultural magazine Rektoverso. This is Dutch only and is published here.

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Popperola and Ampere Present: TEEN, 27 February 2016, with Pirrès (B.), Raoul Belmans (B.), Luke Solomon (UK) and Brett Johnson (US).

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The ideal birthday should be a  joyous communal celebration of the fact that you’re fully alive.
But what if you were born on a day that doesn’t happen on a yearly basis, but only every four years? Well, that just means you have to party super hard – an extra 150 percent at least!

Dr. Poppers ( Tom Nys), curator and writer about dance music and contemporary art, happens to have his birthday on that notorious leap day 29 February. This year he turns forty, which in leap years means he turns ten, effectively becoming a teenager!
For this momentous occasion, Poppers teamed up with Ampere, a relatively new club in Antwerp already voted second in Red Bull Electropedia’s Music Awards for the category “Best Club”in its first year of existence . Together they plan to put on a most memorable tenth birthday party – and everybody’s invited to join the festivities.

Poppers is certainly no stranger to the Belgian party scene. He was a member of the infamous Oase de Pleasure collective in his hometown Leuven who programmed djs such as Koenie, Smos & Baby Bee, Aphrodite Terra (FR), Timmy Richardson (US), Elliot Eastwick (UK) and Keb Darge (UK). Later he organised his own Popperola parties featuring the likes of Crispin J. Glover (UK) and Stefan Goldmann (DL). All of the artists mentioned above deal in the deep and funky house which holds a special place in Poppers’ heart, and this is exactly the music that will fuel TEEN – along with that sweet house party vibe to match.

The evening will kick off with Ampère resident Pirrès, a sure bet to get the  partygoers started on the dance floor.

Next up is Raoul Belmans; a long-time friend (and neighbor) of Dr. Poppers. Raoul is also a highly respected veteran of the Belgian funky house scene with considerable international renown. He was a resident at the legendary Food club nights, label owner of the seminal house label Aroma, former dj at Belgian national radio Studio Brussel and one half of the producers duo Swirl People. This is most definitely the man to bring the party to the next level!

We should have a good vibe going by the time Londoner Luke Solomon dives in. Luke is another longtime deep house mainstay: resident at Bar Rumba in London, co-founder of Classic Music (truly a well deserved name) along with Derrick Carter. and Music For Freaks with Justin Harris. Justin and Luke also formed the core of the musical project Freaks, whose “Where Were You When The Lights Went Out” became a dancefloor hit. Recently Luke is also involved in Powerdance, a new live project featuring several interesting figures in today’s dance scene.

Last but not least we present Brett Johnson, who has his roots in the lone star state Texas but now lives in the German capital. His quirky and boompty productions were rapidly picked up by Classic Music. His own label Easoteric built up a respectable catalogue, and presently Brett has regular releases on high-profile labels such as Cynosure, Visionquest, Get PhysicalLegwork and Bang The Box (the imprint he ran with Lance De Sardi). Apart from all that, Brett is an excellent and highly skilled dj as well as an extremely lovable guy.

Club Ampere is guaranteed to be the ideal club for this stellar line-up, offering a superb sound system, great facilities and a top-notch staff. It should be clear that TEEN will make a legendary night out, as well as a birthday well celebrated!

27 February 2016; doors 23h00
Ampere, Simonsstraat 21, 2018 Antwerp (B.)
Presale tickets €12.00
www.ampere-antwerp.be
RSVP https://www.facebook.com/events/1669794879946863
All artwork by Uber and Kosher (www.uberandkosher.com)

 

Bespreking: Party 10 Days Off: The Last Waltz (Day 10) met o.a. Magnus, Ed & Kim, CJ Bolland & Raphaël, Darren Emerson, Pierre & Trish, 27/07/2014, Vooruit, Gent (B.)

Ed-KimHet doek is na twintig edities uiteindelijk gevallen voor 10 Days Off, het Gentse dance-evenement dat de clubcultuur op haar best celebreerde. Steeds samenvallend met de befaamde Gentse Feesten, leverde het atypische festival tien opeenvolgende clubnachten met sterke namen, een gevarieerd aanbod en een zeer aangename sfeer. Ooit was het pionierswerk, nu is het voorbijgestreefd door dancefestivals die op een duidelijk rockleest zijn geschoeid. Ik maakte (een deel van) het afsluitende, negentien uren durende feest mee in de Vooruit en schreef er een stuk over voor het blad Gonzo Circus, dat je HIER kan lezen!

Review: Slam – “Rotary/ Catacoustics”; Funk D’Void & Dave Tarrida – “Data Reader EP”; Erdbeerschnitzel – “The Ample Waters”; Frits Wentink – “Family Dinner EP; Local Suicide – “We Can Go Everywhere”

SOMA400_Slam_RotaryCatacoustics_CoverArtworkWebSince the early 1990s, a steady stream of select house and techno wells out of the Scottish city of Glasgow. The most substantial fountainhead has been Soma Quality Recordings, co-founded by techno household name Slam. Recently Soma presented its 400th release, which was reserved for the duo that established the label. The ep consists of two solid tracks, both clearly illustrating techno’s implied functionality. The steady pounding in “Rotary” is wrapped up in a menacing analogue synthesizer sound supplemented with hi-hats and sweeps while “Catacoustics” is much deeper, using bells, rattles and low bass to an entrancing effect. As this momentous release is a prelude to a new album by Slam, scheduled for October, we can rest assured Soma will continue to play their authoritative role in the scene.

DruckA producer closely associated with Soma and originally hailing from Glasgow as well is Funk D’Void. A while ago, he has teamed up again with Dave Tarrida, yet another Scotsman with years of experience producing music, for a release on the latter’s fresh label Autofake. The fun they had while working on this “Data Reader EP” is apparent and the result is a set of three coarse, raw, flipping acid tracks. Take for instance “Glow Blob”: a little mean dance machine that shoots off noises and samples in all directions while rolling firmly forward. The title track in turn, can easily be described as timeless, prototypical acid techno. Lastly, the raucous, over-the-top stomper “Discontinue” gets a rework by upcoming Spanish producer Miki Craven, who transforms it into an atmospheric cut not unlike most of Funk D’Void’s solo work.

dsr-h8-AAfter Dutch imprint Delsin went for a more house-orientated series of eps last year and brought out the superb “Cushion” by Erdbeerschnitzel, they are now pushing an equally exciting follow-up. It contains all the necessary ingredients for an Erdbeerschnitzel taste: intricately woven layers of sound, samples and instrumentation, an over-all slow tempo, an organic feel despite the use of software, several catchy melodies and a decent funk groove. These are true summer tunes; listening to the title track “In Ample Waters” will induce every house aficionado a similar feeling as a kid getting an ice cream on a hot day in June. The beauty of “Never Tilt” is in its artisanship of melodic structuring, a characteristic which is also present in the soft-paced and soulful “Yet Unfulfilled”, the only track on the record that includes vocals. The German once again delivers a work of real flair that’ll be on my playlist for the warm months to come.

HEIST005-1440Like Delsin, Heist Recordings is proudly based in Amsterdam. It is, of course, a much younger label run by the house outfit Detroit Swindle, but Heist has already got a fair share of attention with a few exceptionally strong releases. Its fifth ep is by fellow townsman Frits Wentink (actually Steve Mensink), a newcomer who holds a degree in Audio Design and who  is gaining status rapidly thanks to some decent production work on labels suchs as Triphouse, Shipwrec and Darko Esser’s Wolfskuil as well as to many club performances. This “Family Dinner EP” is in fact typical Frits Wentink material. Case in point is “Ligament” which has a heavy-thumping beat as a basis and gets its groove from a recurring filtered sample with a jazzy feel as well as a soulful vocal cut. “IF I Was To Gravy You’ is composed of similar elements and “Shrewd”, in turn, is an awesome garage house track, characterized by an even more efficient groove, very catchy synth lines and a cut-up vocal sample. Dutch singer Loes Jongerling, with whom the producer has worked before, contributes to “Sauce”. The piece has been built up around her voice, heavy percussive beats and some warm synth touches. All in all, Frits Wentink indeed confirms the buzz and Heist was right to sign him to their roster.

BAP032_Local_Suicide_-_We_Can_Go_Everywhere_CoverArtLastly, a promising debut comes from the Berlin-based German-Greek duo Local Suicide (Brax Moody and Vamparella) on the stylish label Bordello A Parigi, an enterprise from Rotterdam that specializes in vintage music as well as cinema and fashion. Both members of Local Suicide are very active in the music scene and have already established quite a reputation so this ep was long due. You’ll get the original version of “We Can Go Everywhere”, a catchy and poppy tune with clear influences form Italo disco and Balearic house that locks into your head right away, as well as three remixes. The Swiss from In Flagranti give it a live sounding esthetics by means of a funky bass line and some drums, while Mexican dandy Iñigo Vontier chooses an electroclash roll to emphasize the potential the track has for peak time use. Finally, Richard Rossa’s version is more of an electro disco dub that works perfectly. And now please excuse me because I have to get into these high-heeled dancing boots!

Slam – “Rotary/ Catacoustics” is out on Soma Quality Recordings since June 9th

Track list:
1. Rotary
2. Catacoustics

Funk D’Void & Dave Tarrida – “Data Reader EP” is out on Autofake since May 30th

Track list:
1. Data Reader
2. Glow Blob
3. Discontinue
4. Discontinue (Miki Craven Remix)

Erdbeerschnitzel – “The Ample Waters” will be out on Delsin on July 7th

Track list:
1. The Ample Waters
2. Never Tilt
3. With Level Hopes
4. Yet Unfulfilled

Frits Wentink – “Family Dinner EP” will be out on Heist Recordings on July 7th

Track list:
1. Schrewd
2. Ligament
3. Sauce feat. Loes Jongerling
4. If I Was To Gravy You

Local Suicide – “We Can Go Everywhere” will be out on Bordello A Parigi on June 24th

Track list:
1. We Can Go Everywhere
2. We Can Go Everywhere (In Flagranti Remix)
3. We Can Go Everywhere (
Iñigo Vontier Remix)
4. We Can Go Everywhere (Richard Rossa Remix)

Review: Patrik Skoog – “Exit Earth”; Snuff Crew – “Behind The Masks”; Mendo – “Avalon”; Conforce – “Kinetic Image”

There was a time when dance music albums were simply a collection of four-to-the-floor tracks without much coherence, like two or three 12inches released in one package. However, for quite some time now a large amount of artists in the genre have crafted albums that are a consistent set of pieces, often with a thematic or at least a musical consistency and that are listenable in other places than a club too.

These days, mainly due to the emergence of the digital market and a change in the ways of music consumption, the album format has generally lost its importance to the single. One could easily expect dance music producers leaving the effort of creating an album and concentrate on a condensed output format. But this isn’t the case at all and the release of several interesting albums during these weeks confirms this point in a way.

PATRIK SKOOG EXIT EARTH draftSwedish producer living in Berlin Patrik Skoog just brought out his first album under his own name on Third Ear Recordings. The man’s long discography, starting at the end of the previous century, is a proof of his diligence and experience but until now, “Who Made Up The Rules” on Josh Wink’s Ovum Records (2011) was the only album on that list. It was released under his alias Agaric which he has been using most during the last years of his career so the fact that “Exit Earth” was done using his proper name is noteworthy.

Skoog now made use of a thematic approach: not only all track titles but also his sound palette reflect the topic of NASA’s two Voyager space travel projects in the 1970s. Of course the exploration of the cosmos is a classic techno idiom and possibly “Exit Earth” could have done without all this. On the other hand it neatly ties everything together conceptually.

The album contains slower, dreamlike tracks like “Inside Jupiter’s Eye” and the beautiful “Cluster 34”, dance floor material such as “Cygnus A” as well as some experimental parts as for instance “Voyager 1” or the closing “Radio Emissions”. Yet it never loses touch of its self-imposed running thread. Furthermore two specific characteristics stand out: firstly, the inherent emotive force of all tracks and secondly Skoog’s meticulous production technique and finishing which make “Exit Earth” a powerful whole.

Snuff Crew Behind The MasksIn lots of ways the German duo Snuff Crew stands for (a certain) tradition and the continuation of it. Having always stressed the heavy impact and influence which 1980s Chicago house, acid house and early techno had on them, their output – be it as producers or as a live act – has continuously been an emulation of those genres. The fact that they keep their identity hidden is in this respect in line with a certain custom in the scene and the title they chose for their third album, released by BPitch Control, refers to this.

However, “Behind The Masks” is not a true revelatory affair per se. The real names of the creators aren’t mentioned in the sleeve notes and that these personas stand for a flaming passion for old school house and techno had already been made clear. However new is for instance an abundant use of piano parts and, more generally, a recurring song-based structure. Take for instance “New Life” which is an utterly sweet Balearic tune, poppy even, featuring a good vocal by Rachel Low and totally having the feel of early 1990s Ibiza hit material.

The appearance of several top contributors is another remarkable feat. Kim Ann Foxman stars in “Tearing Me Away” while Chicago house legend Tyree Cooper completely gets down on the hip house party blaster “Work It Out”. Last but not least, Venetian male diva Hard Ton demonstrates on the catchy “Let Me Be the One” that he is most certainly one of the best house vocalists of today’s scene. Apart from these tracks, Snuff Crew also included decent stylistic exercises in acid – “Bass!” – as well as in electro – “What Is Electro?”.

But while the twosome’s production resulted in an album that, all its imperfections aside, has a very polished sound it is exactly this cleanliness that can be bothersome. As Snuff Crew proclaims to search for the perfect jack and appraises rawness, it is a pity this isn’t expressed more on a recorded album like they seem to manage perfectly while playing live. Also, their quest sometimes brings into being a fairly generic type of house; it works but may lack a face. Masks or not.

CR036_Mendo_Avalon_CoverArtworkWebGeneva-based David Mendo might not be a top name in house (yet), nonetheless he is a exceptionally skilled dj who has released a long list of 12inches, some on big labels such as Groove, Defected, Get Physical, Cadenza and Rekids. Now he presents his debut album entitled “Avalon” on his own Clarisse imprint. As Mendo is of Spanish descent, quite some of his influences, samples and rhythms are derived from Latin music. The combination with house has been tried and tested many times in the past and Mendo doesn’t really present us something radically new, yet the examples on this record testify that the concept still works, given that production is done properly.

Mendo shows he can take care of that. A piece like “Abstract” is a case in point: here, a good groove is accompanied by the melancholic Spanish vocals of Carla Krevey, an intense piano part, a well-placed guitar sample and some percussive sounds, creating a warm atmosphere. The mastery is definitely in the timing and in the auditory details which are a constant throughout the record. Some tracks give the impression of simplicity but after listening more often and/ or more closely their refinement becomes apparent.

Certainly, “Avalon” includes a few outstanding, restrained and balanced pieces such as “Libellule” and “Waterborne” but the Swiss also put in some floor bombs: “La Krika” and “Les Clochers de Belarus” are packaged as late-1990s deep house anthems and “Fever” is based on soulful but grooving disco. It is without doubt “Everybody Love” though that has the most explosive potential with its pure peak-time power and precision. But “Avalon” is all together a quality album which I certainly recommend.

Kinetic Image-FrontSomething quite different is the work of Boris Bunnik, known for his deep alternative techno as Conforce but also for his unremitting work ethic – which I don’t believe is because he’s from the northern Netherlands but more because he’s really passionate about producing. With “Kinetic Image”, his third album, he steers away from beat-driven and dance-inducing music and explores a domain of his musical realm that is darker and more subdued.

As Bunnik uses several artist names to distinguish between the different facets of his music, it is significant that he chose his Conforce moniker for this release on Delsin Records, perhaps indicating that he will take this part of his oeuvre into a new direction. Indeed, “Kinetic Image” isn’t a record you skip through, it demands complete immersion. Yes, it’s best to make time for it; most of us create a right setting and make accommodations for watching a movie so why not do something similar for certain music? I bet some people occasionally do and Conforce’s latest certainly asks for it.

During the trip he is offering, sounds are sparsely distributed along subterranean passageways. Once in a while wobbly and dubby patterns appear while high pitched bleeps are omnipresent. However sober the arrangement, it manages to evoke a thick cover; eccentric yet comforting. Conforce has created an all-encompassing experience in the form of a music album. It’s not fast and flashy, superfluous nor flimsy but it surely presents a treat for the mind.

 

Patrick Skoog – “Exit Earth” is out since October 25th

Track list:
1. Cluster 34
2. Saturnian Acid
3. Stereo/ Waves
4. Voyager 1
5. Voyager 2 (digital only)
6. Inside Jupiter’s Eye
7. Stay In Orbit
8. Time Won’t Come
9. Cygnus A (digital only)
10. Death Of A Pulsar
11. Radio Emissions

Snuff Crew – “Behind The Masks” is out since October 25th

Track list:
01. Lights
02. New Life feat. Rachel Row
03. Move Me
04. Let Me Be The One feat. Hard Ton
05. Jack My Heart
06. Tearing Me Away feat. Kim Ann Foxman
07. Work It Out feat. Tyree Cooper
08. What Is Electro?
09. Bass!
10. Joy Of Jealousy

Mendo – “Avalon” is out since November 4th

Track list:
1. Mintro
2. Abstract feat. Carla Krevey
3. Clavelito
4. Everybody Love
5. Waterborne
6. Fever
7. Samba
8. Interlude
9. La Krika
10. Avalon
11. Rising Sun
12. Les Clochers de Belarus
13. Amazon
14. Libellule

Conforce – “Kinetic Image” will be out on November 18th

Track list:
1. Excess Mortality
2. Spatiotemporal
3. Temporary Reversals
4. Semantic Field
5. Scientific Trajectory
6. Underwater Settlers
7. Formerly Programmed Decisions
8. Abundance Of Selves
9. Optimum Pace
10. Anti-adaptive State

Review: V.A. – “Black Series 004”; Reeko w/ Architectural – “The Blue Album”

The holidays are over and as the music industry follows a cyclical movement, we can rely on the fact that a torrent of new releases is coming out in the current aftermath of Summer. After having survived all festivals, gigs, parties and concerts, it’s time again to focus your attention and spend your money on records and digital music files! I realize it’s been a while since I reviewed some new techno material, so here are some suggestions and more will follow before long.

APEW004_BlackSeries_CoverArtworkBWebFirst I would like to mention the fourth instalment in the ‘Black Series’ of the label Authentic Pew.  This modest record company was initiated at the beginning of 2012 in Chemnitz, Germany by Perthil & Aerts. The duo has been playing extensively in their home country and is getting more and more attention abroad as well, which I believe is completely justified. The ep consists of three original tracks of different artists (in fact all but one are collective efforts) and one remix by Perthil & Aerts themselves. Two producers from Paris working under the name of As Patria are responsible for ‘Arcan’ which is based on a singular, atmospheric groove that never gets boring thanks to the addition of several deep and haunting sounds.

Tomohiko Sagae’s ‘Chloroform’ on the other hand is not your typical sensation blocker.  Au contraire, it’s an industrial assembly of pounding beats, synchronised screeches and abrasive noises, generating a bodily response without fail.  On the A-side you’ll find a piece by Attac, a collaboration of Mallorca-based Angel Costa and Spanish twosome Attemporal, which is simply named ‘01’ and can be described as very decent though rather archetypal techno. Authentic Pew’s honchos reworked it into a metallic monster, all shiny chrome with well-polished details. ‘Black Series 004’ might not consist of the work of the most familiar names in the scene but it is nonetheless an outstanding ep.

Now that I’ve mentioned Spain, I should also bring up the large amount of quality releases that has come from the Iberian state during this year. A key in this tendency is the label PoleGroup which was set up by Oscar Mulero, Christian Wünsch, Exium and Reeko. Earlier in 2013, PoleGroup released an interesting album by Exium, a duo that normally produces and plays uplifting techno. For their ‘A Sensible Alternative to Emotion’ they experimented with slow tempos, dub inspired sounds and ambient-like backdrops. A short while ago the label issued another long-player from one of its founders: Juan Rico.

polegrouprecordings-018Rico produces under the guises of Reeko and Architectural and this record is taken as a collaboration of these alter egos. I believe this is quite a peculiar concept and since I loved Reeko’s ep ‘Passage #17’ that came out in February on his own Mental Disorder, I was curious to hear what ‘The Blue Album’ as it is called, would be like. All in all it is a very solid record, indeed combining slow-burning and atmospheric parts with traditional techno structures and feats. It may not contain the most original or stunning tracks in the genre, it still serves as an example of the merging of functionality sonorous beauty that techno at its best can achieve.

One could certainly say that ‘The Blue Album’ is tied together by a narrative structure while alternating between pumping dance-floor material, most often dark and even brutal such as ‘Force Carrier’ or ‘Startling Idea’, and cuts that expose a tendency towards refinement and ambience, like ‘Sex on Kepler-22b’ or the end-track ‘The Universal dream’.  The successful juxtaposition of these elements, which can be reduced to the musical essences of Reeko and Architectural, in this unifying arrangement of a kind of concept album, is exactly the record’s strength.

V.A. – “Black Series 004” is out since September 2nd

Track list:
1. Attac – 01
2. Attac – 01 (PertHil & Aerts Remix)
3. As Patria – Arcan
4. Tomohiko Sagae – Chloroform

Reeko w/ Architectural – “The Blue Album” is out since September 16th

Track list:
1. Blue
2. Melted
3. Dualities
4. Sex on Kepler-22b
5. Force Carriers
6. String Theory
7. Startling Idea
8. The Universal Dream

Sunny LaVista artist residency at the Frans Masereelcentrum, Kasterlee (B)

slv-2013-1

I quickly wanted to point out that at this moment I am doing a residency of two weeks at the Frans Masereelcentrum in Kasterlee (B) together with graphic artist Steebz Khuan (Steve Reggers) and musician/ music producer Le Chef Tournel (Dimitri Vossen) as a collective that goes by the name of Sunny LaVista.

While Chef will cook up fresh music, Steebz will draw and print – as the Masereelcentrum is a center specifically aimed at the graphic arts – and I will write. Our output will surefully be influenced by the splendid surroundings of the woods and fields of the area as well as by the talks, discussions, random remarks, deep cultural analyses, debates and chatter we will have by the three of us.

The purpose is to produce a limited edition 12inch vinyl record with a huge poster as a sleeve. Enclosed will be a silkscreen print of an image taken from the larger design. Meanwhile, sound fragments, reports, stories and loose drawings will be published on a blog set up for this purpose. If you’d like to check it out, you can find it here.

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