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STROOM

"There is an endless abundance of variations that the clarinet can use in changing the colour of a single note. As a privileged listener - and - experiencer, Ben Bertrand through his favourite instrument shared the musical blueprints with me, which resulted in this album. His music has become a vivid part of my almost daily thoughts - allowing what I hear to clash and sing with the patterns and rhythms already estThere is an endless abundance of variations that the clarinet can use in changing the colour of a single note. As a privileged listener - and - experiencer, Ben Bertrand through his favourite instrument shared the musical blueprints with me, which resulted in this album. His music has become a vivid part of my almost daily thoughts - allowing what I hear to clash and sing with the patterns and rhythms already established in my mind. A voluntary trip, an absorbing experience in our Brussels vibrant cultural life. With his instrument and countless machines, Ben creates a web of sounds that are hard to pin down but easy to absorb as a whole. Ben Bertrand happened to me. His music, full of beauty, is good to listen to and pleasant to follow. A sense and perception of continued growth too illuminated and overwhelming to resist. While I sense when a new composition is coming, Ben was able in our daily conversations, to progressively untangle a musical mystery and layout the puzzle of a new creation. Listening to his music is like sitting at the sea, watching a slow motion of our crazy life sailing by. You, as a listener, with this record stepped in an early stage of his career, with hardly any involvement of other people, composition wise. Besides composing alone, there have been countless hours when Ben Bertrand worked and interacted with Christophe Albertijn for the recordings. There is also the essence of our regular exchanges and the visions we knit. These are in my opinion just the starting points of plural interactions and musical endeavours to be. It is a matter of his artistic trust and let go, while Ben creates his own language, package and macrocosm. The excellence of Ben Bertrand's music lays in its involving and easily accessible nature, regardless of your personal or musical past experience. Ben Bertrand is all before you for you to dig, and nobody is asking you to file him away under any category.
ablished in my mind. A voluntary trip, an absorbing experience in our Brussels vibrant cultural life. With his instrument and countless machines, Ben creates a web of sounds that are hard to pin down but easy to absorb as a whole. Ben Bertrand happened to me. His music, full of beauty, is good to listen to and pleasant to follow. A sense and perception of continued growth too illuminated and overwhelming to resist. While I sense when a new composition is coming, Ben was able in our daily conversations, to progressively untangle a musical mystery and layout the puzzle of a new creation. Listening to his music is like sitting at the sea, watching a slow motion of our crazy life sailing by. You, as a listener, with this record stepped in an early stage of his career, with hardly any involvement of other people, composition wise. Besides composing alone, there have been countless hours when Ben Bertrand worked and interacted with Christophe Albertijn for the recordings. There is also the essence of our regular exchanges and the visions we knit. These are in my opinion just the starting points of plural interactions and musical endeavours to be. It is a matter of his artistic trust and let go, while Ben creates his own language, package and macrocosm. The excellence of Ben Bertrand's music lays in its involving and easily accessible nature, regardless of your personal or musical past experience. Ben Bertrand is all before you for you to dig, and nobody is asking you to file him away under any category."

Tommy for Stroom & les albums claus

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Rich and evocative stuff here as Ben Bertrand explores the full range of sonic possibilities the clarinet has to offer. Rich baritones, endless drones and breathy treble coalesce into a towering wall of sound before collapsing before the melodic shimmer of jazzy melodies or Reich-ian minimalism.

Fred A. was a two-faced act. His musical grasp to the new wave-movement was countered by his lyrical love for Flemish and Dutch ‘kleinkunst’, and his progressiveness as a composer was in stark contrast with his restraint as a performer. ‘De Angst Voorbij’ is an anthology of those remnants, with eight songs derived from the most fertile period in the musical career of Fred A. The record translates how Gerry opened up again to his late musical endeavours, recalling the 30-years younger version of himself. “The music on this record is a testimony of my life back then. It is delimited in time, that’s why this whole feels coherent to me. It shows who I was back then and what I stood for. And that’s worth cherishing.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Always my go-to guys for 80s melancholy, Stroom bring the gloom once again, this time via the bittersweet bedroom wave of Fred A. Far to introverted to fall under outsider pop, this is music for nocturnal reflection, chilly evenings and profound loneliness. Red wine and ambien - models own.

"This is an anthology, a selection of old and new. It's a collection of the past but moving forward. It's past and future."
Dark Arts is one of those bands that for some reason got lost in the shuffle. It was founded in Columbus, Ohio, by a man named Bob Katt, the "cool, older guy" who went to all the concerts in town and had been in a bunch of other bands. Initially there were five members: in '83 there was Bob on bass and percussion, singer Sue Ann Mason, drummer Dave Green, Bill Bruner on guitar and Stephanie Payne on keyboard. Katt is the one who brought everyone together and came up with the name: they were the 'art' band and they were 'dark'. Keyboard player Stephanie Payne, just like Katt, was also present at every musical happening. Young and eager, she would turn out to be the motor and musical mastermind of the group. When she decided to move to Los Angeles, California, Sue-Ann and new member Larry Altvater decided to tag along. By the time they made their first full album, on Phil Druckers (Savage Republic and 17 Pygmies) label Nate Starkman and Son, they had split up. Payne decided to move on and continued the band by herself, ever finding new musicians.

After the fall of '80, when she was at art school, Payne became more outspoken, headstrong and flamboyant. Driven by her love for music, she would eventually become a forerunner in the local scene of Columbus. The place to be back then was the (now unaffordable) High Street area. To ‘go out’ at the time was simply walk this street up and down. She and her friends would hang out there, check out the record stores, do graffiti at night (Payne on high heels). High Street lay next the Ohio State University campus, the home of the only real music club in the city, maybe even the state: Crazy Mama's. Everyone would go there for dancing and live concerts. Payne would scour music magazines and buy the weekly imports at the local record shops. There, Payne would beleaguer the city shop clerks, asking for their personal recommendations. Since what she liked was often not accessible, Payne took up DJ'ing at Crazy Mama's.
Asides from art school, promoting concerts, DJ'ing and record hunting Payne kept making music. Before Dark Arts, she played in The Girl Boys, a Janus-faced band that was either light, silly and acoustic but could also deliver a hard, dark, electric live set. The same applied to Dark Arts. Their wide-ranging music has a fey, nearly spiritual quality, drifting between folk music, ambient, Eastern European beat patterns and new wave. They were the 'art band' of Columbus, divergent, always changing their sets. They would print crafty flyers, project films and set up special lighting.
"When we played live, we would bring out lawnmowers, pots and pans and pipes we would smash rhythmically with a mallet. Anything that made noise. And then there was also the kraut-influenced, more ambient Dark Arts. I loved percussion, I loved beautiful things, but then, I could also whip out a chainsaw, you know."
Their first gig was in Bernie's Bagel & Deli, as Toy Division, playing Joy Division covers on toy instruments. Dark Arts' second show was a country and western themed performance.


STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Stroom go gloom! Here we have a retrospective of Stephanie Payne's Dark Arts project, dealing out the crepuscular ambience, monochrome indie and shadowy post-punk.

Organized Pleasure / Satin Wall

Tropical Stumble / Dans Les Profondeurs

In popular imagination, the early 80s were dreadful. Thatcher and Reagan led the world on a diet of austerity, unemployment and depression. The Berlin Wall separated East from West. The Sex Pistols had broken up. In sum, the future was unsure. Belgium was no exception. While Punk had been declared dead by some, its spirit was still roaming in country parishes and city alleyways. As the Catholic bourgeoisie provided young people with few opportunities, music was an obvious pastime. Teenage hopes of starting a band and putting out a record were everywhere. Organized Pleasure and Satin Wall were two bands living the dream. In contrast to a thousand others, they left us sounding evidence. This split 7” gathers two tracks originally recorded in 1981. It was the first and only studio excursion for both groups. After some local gigs, the people involved moved on to other projects. While their music is illustrative for the era, their story is distinct. Same but different.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says:

19 Gadi Pirms Sakuma

19 Years Before The Beginning

Formed with the intention of playing a single performance at an audio visual exhibition curated by contemporaries NSRD, 19 gadi pirms sākuma developed into one of the most delicate, intriguing groups in Latvia’s 1980s and early 1990s music scene. After their first (and in their minds only) performance, a pair of music journalists from Berlin asked for a copy of their non-existent album, prompting the group to continue their musical journey. 

Part of a totally DIY scene flourishing through the cracks of the Soviet Union, the group chose instruments based on emotion and availability, often borrowing gear from colleauges for recording. 
They laid down four tracks, one of which, "Singapūras Vējš", appears on this compilation. Listening to it now, the frantic synths, percussion and Rubene’s vocal reveal the urgency of the time. The momentum of youth enlivened by the possibilities of the future. Fragility exists in the music, especially in the vocals, yet it is swept up in the energy of the moment.
Things continued to move quickly for the group. Shortly after that first recording session they were invited to play West Berlin’s Transmission Festival, sharing the stage with the likes of Einsturzende Neubauten.
On their next visit to the studio, they laid down five tracks, "Die Wilde Frau", "Ruhig", "Kurmja deja", "Nikni Zvēri", "Pāri upei", all of which are present on this compilation.
When listening to them now, it’s remarkable how unique 19 gadi pirms sākuma’s music sounds. Seemingly disparate acoustic and synthetic sounds orchestrated into swooning, surreal songs. Elements of minimalism combined with synth pop and echoes of folk melodicism. 
Much like their contemporaries and collaborators NSRD, 19 gadi pirms sākuma’s music captures frustration with their own reality, and a playful drive to make up a new one.


STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Lovely archival action from Stroom here, detailing the experimental and emotional music of 19 Gadi Pirms Sakuma. Inspired by snatches of Arvo Part, Laurie Anderson and Philip Glass, but isolated from the wider musical world, the Latvian group playfully sought their own sound, a coldwave fusion of organic and electronic elements which still sounds unique.

Maroma was there long before the Moors. The Moors were there long before man landed on the moon half a century ago. Drum machines meant you didn’t have to take Ginger Baker our for a drink. Life takes on sublime logic. In retrospect, everything takes on a new meaning from a different perspective. The past is the future. From Glasgow to Edinburgh to Andalucia. This music is about a small journey, an aural triptych of sounds.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Since Stroom's suitably poetic sales notes give little away, I'll fill in some blanks. The ace Belgian imprint team up with Forced Nostalgia to treat us to a great retrospective of Glaswegian wave duo Vazz, whose delicate and dreamy music drifted around Durutti Column ambience and Postcard indie to wonderful effect.

Following on from the excellent 'Le personnage principal est un peuple isolée' compilation, Stroom return to the unique sonic world of Benjamin Lew for a four track EP of deeply psychedelic jams from the early 80's. Opener "Bamako Ou Ailleurs" lays queasy sax over a raga-style sequence and ambling coldwave rhythm, swiftly hooking us into its hypnotic repetition before subtle changes trigger interesting variations in brain chemistry. "Il Les Quitta A L'aube" employs a similarly opiated approach to rhythm, the kick ditching the rest of the kick to mark steady time as the pulsating synths and dreamy keys swell and fade. Opening the B-side, "Dans Les Jardins" sees Lew swirl field recordings, radio samples and garbled electronics into a tribal rite for the mechanical age - perfect for Halloween deployment I reckon. Finally, "A La Recherche De B" leads us into a watery grave of aquatic undulations, dubby fx and gloomy neo-classical touches.



So far so far out for Stroom, who continue their journey through the lesser thumbed pages of the Belgian underground with this sublime retrospective of art-house hero and ambient music weirdo Jan Van Den Broeke. Famed for his wavy, sample heavy synth compositions as Absent Music, The Misz and June 11, Van Den Broeke made an appearance on Alain Neffe's Insane Music imprint, with the lo-fi tropicalia of "The Desert" (included here folks). Falling somewhere between Spike, Marc Barreca, Eno's poppier moments and the bedsit anxiety of a Flying Nun band, the music collected on "11000 Dreams" beguiles, intrigues and transfixes us with its introverted magic. Working with a minimalist set up of drum machines, guitar, synth and spoken vocal, Van Den Broeke pursues his own unique musical path to create a sound which falls into a flawless musical no man's land - Absent Music indeed! So, if you dig on Balearic, minimal wave or ambient sounds, you NEED this in your life.

TRjj is made up of several people that meet regularly since 2016. It is practiced collectively with interchanging names and roles, so the full control about disguised authorship would be guaranteed. Everyone involved was set to meet half way. TRjj is a filter for the kinship of many. Its the freedom attained, once you have gotten rid of yourself. This heteronomic practice would be ideal to advocate against reasons which are claimed, biographies that are scripted, economies that are fueled and histories that are written to be recognized as something apparently truly valid and fully finnished.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Stroom's revolving ensemble TRjj embrace the anonymity of collectivism and conjure up a wonderful LP of esoteric, rhythmic and ambient pieces, perfectly in keeping with the label's signature style.

“Benjamin Lew was an enlightened amateur, in the noble and almost Renaissance-like sense of the word: he dabbled with equal grace in photography, writing, visual arts ... and worked part-time as a cocktail mixer in a tropical bar which was one of the favourite watering holes of Brussels’ thriving artistic community of the early ‘80s. Tuxedomoon had just moved to Brussels, and Steven Brown was among the many musicians, designers & artists who patronized the bar. Benjamin had a secret passion: he wasn’t a musician, but had acquired a small analog computer, with which he had started creating these strange mysterious little pieces. Benjamin played them to Steven and asked him if he’d agree to record with him. Steven was taken with them and accepted. The Douzième Journée was largely created in the studio by both protagonists, with the help of Gilles Martin and myself, in the spring of ‘82. Listening to his albums (he went on to record four more with Crammed) is like embarking on a dream journey to the Sahara or the Far East. You’d think that some of the pieces feature non-European musicians or samples but: no... this is just Benjamin’s imagination, his synths, and his friends…”
Marc Hollander, Feb 2019

Stroom's restless release schedule continues to excite and amaze, in terms of both quantity and quality. The labels 5th release of 2019 (that's so far, there are two more titles slated for March), is a heroic dose of head music from Bruges musician Aponogeton, who makes his vinyl debut after a 2016 cassette and digital EP in 2017. As befits an artist named after an aquatic plant, "A Place Of Solace" is a deep and immersive creature, composed during a period of inner and outer reflection. Moods range from the intense (eventually) propulsive "Prologue" to the celestial calm of "The Night Sky Is Falling", by way of the anxiety ridden "This Concerns You" and "Artemievs Dream", but the message remains the same - turn on, tune in and engage your brain.

Stroom's valentine special for 2019 sees the label excavate some lovely wave from Venice, Italy (1981-1984). Though the city may be best known for gondolas, the biennale and romantic getaways, it seems those canals spawned some vital contributions to Italy's vibrant underground pop scene in the 80s, not least the DIY sounds of Ruins. The collaborative project of Alessandro Pizzin and Piergiuseppe Ciranna, Ruins took inspiration from British post punk, US electro, the robots from Düsseldorf and the sleek new wave topping the international charts at the time. Opener "Elegant Shout" fuses crunchy electronics and grooving bass and guitar to create a bedroom pop beauty which could easily have made it onto MFM's "Uneven Paths" comp. "Alone" is a punchier affair, more obviously directed at the leftfield dancefloors with insistent synths and the kind of garbled chorus you get from no-wave. Cut a rug in your baggiest trousers with the early-Spandeau stylings of "You're Like A Cigarette", then go wild with the drunk in the jazz club weirdo post-punk of "Skeleton In Love". The flipside keeps the hits coming, be it the slow and sleazy "Fit Of Nerves", tropical pop bangers "Boys & Girls" and "Everybody Knows Me" or the whacked out white funk of "It's Not Too Grand". Long live Stroom and their endless knowledge of alternative wave greats.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Skinny ties, skew-wiff sounds and the weirdest, white funk around - sounds good to me. Sitting at the groovier end of the post punk/synth pop spectrum, "Occasional Visits" is a wavey masterpiece from Italy's 80s underground. Time to dance differently...

Following the releases of the vinyl compilation "Spring Break" and the maxi 12” compilation "Bardo for Pablo", Stroom conclude their Pablo's Eye trilogy with the typically diverse and utterly devastating "Dark Matter". "More than anything, Pablo’s Eye is a temporary atmosphere, like a taste or a dream…", well so say the sales notes, and if that's true, opener "Worship & Passion" is a Michelin starred appetizer, served at a restaraunt in purgatory. Celestial pads and poetic vocals seduce you with their heavenly charm, but that still doesn't shift the stainless steel anxiety that this could go the other way. "More Hestiant Than Before" seizes on this moment of uncertainty, applying the classic ambient combo of tremulous drone and stately strings but with an intensity far removed from your typical day spa. I'm a sucker for rhythm, and the rolling toms, propulsive bassline and ruthless breakbeat of "Different Observers" more than tickles my pickle, upping the energy before the moody and mystical ambience of "She Would Stand Alone" provides the party fear. Help arrives via the dramatic "He Closed His Eyes", an uplifting and esoteric composition adorned in hang drums and metallic textures, which strolls effortlessly into the paradisiac "When You Were Asleep", a triumphant combination of healing frequencies.
On the flipside, "L.A. Desert" takes a diversion into the ethno-ambient terrain of Laurie Anderson's "Mister Hearbreak", before the rainsoaked "She Told Him The News" harnesses the noir of Blade Runner. "Tamil Nadu" is trip hop in henna, while "A Pagan Use" exploits your inherent vertigo to pull you into its tower of song. Sparse studio dubbing and cinematic tones show us out on "Out Of The Corner Of Her Eye" and "Loisada Dub", bringing this most excellent and esoteric trilogy to an end.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Stroom bring their Pablo's Eye trilogy to a triumphant close this week with the deep musica of "Dark Matter". Whether exploring straight up ambience, cinematic interlude or propulsive trip hop, Axel Libeert's outfit always maintain their signature sound. Pro-Tip - save a fortune on therapy and listen to "When You Were Asleep" once a day.

48 Cameras was the brainchild and life project of self-proclaimed non-musician Jean-Marie Mathoul († 04/07/2018), a social worker born and raised in Huy who carefully conducted 48C towards cult status. After hearing an album of William S. Burroughs reciting poetry, J-M decided to put poems and spoken word to music. He was a poet in his own right, having already published a.o. Une cure au cancer (A cure for cancer), a book of poems which at times was wrongly sold alongside medical books. At a literary event in Liège, Belgium, he met UK-based writer Paul Buck (author of the novel The Honeymoon Killers) and the two of them decided to collaborate and thus formed 48 Cameras. The name of the collective references photographer Eadweard Muybridge and a poem by Jim Morrison.

It is important to note that 48C is somewhat of a non-band. The musicians and collaborators never actually recorded together, and to this day some haven’t even met each other. Before starting the recording process, J-M built an album in his mind: choice of album and song titles, who was to collaborate, even the artwork was clear long before the first note was played, leaving little room for surprises. All of this was carefully collected in decently structured Atoma notebooks full of polaroids, annotations and cut-out photos of paintings and advertisements of cigarettes. An avid smoker himself (as long time collaborator Calo recalls: ‘sometimes he was smoking three cigarettes at a time, he’d forget he had already lit one or two’), the notebook papers slowly transformed into nicotine colored archives of a project that often feels like the musical masterpiece of a recluse puppet master, overviewing and directing things from his attic home studio, aptly referred to as “the Observatory”.

Throughout the years collaborators sent their parts by snail mail on tape, DAT or even MiniDisc, and with the arrival of the internet some began to upload their contributions. Never, however, was the collective present together in the attic studio.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Stroom keep it esoteric, ambient and kinda cryptic with their latest archival offering, welcoming us into the ethereal plane inhabited by Jean-Marie Mathoul and his revolving band of collaborators. As we drift through the LP, the sounds form into an uncanny dreamscape where otherwordly sounds sit beneath spoken poetry.

Vanderschrick

Onzeker

Brewed up in the bedroom of Stroom intern Victor De Roo and roommate Felix Poffé, Vanderschrick trade in mournful synthwave, flavoured by a post punk attitude and swathed in the haze of 4AD. On the A-side "Ochtendgrijis" builds from a metronomic drum grid to a gothic synthpop spectacular, as if the IDIB printer ran out of colour ink and the all night diner shut down. "Ongehoord" has more of a post punk feel but retains the cinematic overtones of the A-side. 

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Stroom drop a very limited 7" here featuring the musical creation of their intern Victor De Roo and his housemate. Synthwave solemnity somewhere between a grieving Italians Do It Better and 4AD - sounds good right?

Equally adept at reissues and new releases, Stroom have quickly become one of our favourite labels, and the Belgian imprint excel themselves once again this week with the newest release from multi-instrumentalist Annelis Monsere. The label describe is as "...a record about a parting of ways. It is dedicated to the one who has been left behind and the one who left." And despite the 'happiness' of the title, the nine tracks found within embody a profound and beautiful melancholy. Musically Annelis charts a course through avant folk, minimalism and bedroom electronica, while her vocals, half whispered, half double tracked, convey an eerie gloom. Intimate, expressive and sorrowful, this is music for the moonlight.

Theater De Kreet was a short lived theatre collective that existed between 1979 and 1981. In that period the troupe presented just one performance, a musical called 'Adeline' which had a run of six shows during 1981.

The members of Theater De Kreet were originally part of a bigger group called Grasgroen, which was founded by art history students from the Leuven University. The collective mainly focused on so called ‘animations’ in the public space. After a while, Grasgroen split into two different groups (theatre and performance), and Theater De Kreet came into existence. Its core members were Walter Verdin, Guy Dermul, Hilde Wils, Gaby Geysens and Nicole Boffin. Mainly using improvisatory methods, the collective started working on 'Adeline' in 1979. The premiere took place in October 1981 and was met with very mixed critical reviews. Walter Verdin was in charge of the music for 'Adeline'. Originally an art history and visual art student, Verdin was introduced to the Belgian music scene through his record sleeve and poster designs. Prior to the music for 'Adeline', he released a solo album and a 7” white man reggae project with Grasgroen ('Storingen' by Specimen & The Rizikoos). Later in his career, he had his biggest commercial success with Pas de deux, the band that represented Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest in Munich (1983). After the Pas de deux adventure, Verdin gave up on popular music and had a blooming career in video art, working on video concerts and installations and later on with renowned theatre and dance companies from all over the world.

To write the soundtrack for 'Adeline', Verdin took to the studio of the Audiovisual Services of the KU Leuven, which was his audio and video laboratorium for around 20 years, and subsequently to the ICP Recording Studios in Brussels for post-production. Verdin & co. didn't compose behind a writing desk or a piano. Music for them meant playing - with an instrument, but also with non-traditional instruments. The spring of a desk lamp for instance, could be used to produce music too. 

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Stroom just don't slip up! The Belgian label keep us coming back with a wonderful collection of improvisational electronic grooves from Pas De Deux man Walter Verdin. Combining all your favourite bits of minimal wave, Balearic, synth funk and cosmic pop, the eight tracks on "Voor Adeline" are the kind of wonderful oddities that litter all the best mixtapes.


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Seems like a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon in Manchester - vinyl, pizza and beer. Good to see you today… https://t.co/M6gEAYUelg
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