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Kyoto / Zoe Sinatra

Venetian Blinds / Mais Qu’est-Ce Que Tu Fumes?

Stroom stay on message with their latest maxi 12", offering a fresh press to a pair of Belgian synth pop rarities from the era of patched denim, heavy eye shadow and Swatch watches. On the A-side, we travel to 1986, where Belgian outfit Kyoto have hit the studio with the sadly uncredited Belinda de Bruyn, whose glacial vocals rest perfectly in the steely synthwave groove. Built out of white funk guitars, tight bass, metallic percussion and the full range of the DX7, this track paints a picture of a Secret Agent Man on the streets of Brussels, a slick Soft Cell with more on their mind than the right direction to the red light district, or Vienna without the melodrama. Moody 80s magic in other words. On the flipside, we get the sought after B-side from Zoe Sinatra's 1990 7" "Size XXL", a breathy synth pop stroller which serves up a mostly spoken vocal francais on a synth laded groove somehow reminiscent of both JMJ's "Souvenirs De Chine" and "Blah Blah Cafe". Wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful, this pervo pop winner should hit home for Balearic, cosmic and synth fans alike. 


STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Another ace maxi from Stroom, offering a new lease of life to a pair of previously unobtainable synthwave beauties. Suitably seductive (looking at the sleeve, I think that's the idea here), both cuts give us a spoken female vocal, metallic percussion and grayscale synth sounds of a superior quality to their competitors. Straight in my record bag I reckon.

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.

Sound Mercenary / Groove Mercenary

Dilemma

Landing in tandem with their Lhasa reissue, Stroom treat us to another pair of Nosedrip's favourite Belgian releases from the early 90s, this time from Stefan Van Elsen in his Sound / Groove Mercenary guises. The salesnotes tell us we're listening to "trance / new beat embodied as a shovel in mud", and I'd be hard pushed to disagree as "Dilemma's" cinematic synth stabs and precise drum programming drop into Inner City keyboard vamps and that looped out vocal wail. Chuck in a robotic synthline and some murky bass and we're sweating one out in the throb of Boccaccio. Skip to the flip and Stefan takes us into the most distant reaches of deep space with the bleep heavy, break-driven, ethno-sampling smash of "Switch". Twisted and techy, this floor filler takes me straight through the Stargate into a distant planet where you can still find a Laser Quest - if I'm not totally mistaken, Lena Willikens and Vlad played it at the last night of Salon, so you know you're onto a winner.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Almost anticipating our newly christened New Beat section, Nosedrip re-ishes a couple of his best loved bangers from early nineties Belgium. Here we feel the force of Stefan Van Elsen’s post Detroit techno-tonker “Dilemma”, and the cybernetic new beat of “Switch”, a break-led beauty for peak time heat.

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.

Ever the innovators, Stroom create a whole new space in the Piccadilly release schedule, with this 'back to school' banger from Patrick Selinger. A free spirit with a decidedly DIY attitude, Patrick released New Beat-Not New Beat (Matt's hastily knocking up a new Piccadilly genre heading as we speak) classic "Business Man" under the name Logo in 1988. Set to the metallic clang of some reverb soaked percussion, the track drifts through deserted city streets, capturing a rainsoaked mystery with mournful pads, detached vocals and delicate melodies. Evocative, understated and oddly danceable, this is a moody and medicated Eurocentric cousin of Flash and the Pan's perfectopop "Walking In The Rain". Soon after this release, Selinger left the music industry in search of the music, putting together a CD only release of piano compositions which we can sample on the B-side. 


STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: How good is this? Belgium's finest mark the end of the summer with a retrospective EP of Patrick Selinger's unique music. On the A-side we have the definitive mixes of sadface newbeat groove "Businessmen", while the flipside showcases the Antwerp musician's later piano works. Ace!

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.

In the relatively short time since Stroom first appeared in the stores, the Belgian label has quickly blossomed into an essential imprint for any true heads out there. Drifting between esoteric ambience, bedroom tape manipulations, wavy torch songs and overlooked R&B, the Stroom catalogue explores the frayed edges of the musical map, always looking for something unheard and unmissable. Their latest release puts a spotlight on Pablo's Eye, a loose collective of musicians and performers centered around Brussels engineer Axel Libeert. From 1989 to 1999, the flexible ensemble created a septet of CD only releases, the highlights of which make it onto this perfectly sequenced collection.
Opener "Blind And Quiet" sets the scene with backmasked guitar, tremulous bass drones and animalistic breathing, gently pulling us into the deep dreamspace which Pablo's Eye call home. "Track 2" offers a further post modern twist, turning evocative piano, otherworldly zither and choral vox into a mournful mood piece via snippets of evangelical vocals. Soon we drift from that Lynchian contradiction to the remarkably Balearic "La Pedrera", a moody midnight stroll by beachside cafe's in an ocean breeze. At the close of the A-side, the somber strings and gentle guitar of "Track 4" hold us close in suspended animation, before the flip brings the propulsive beach resort funk of "Otis". With its atmospheric electronics, steady bass and chorus guitars "El Barrio Gotico" sounds like an ambient reprise of Texan classic "Broken Wings", while the tumbling percussion, snatches of vocal and electronic textures of "Amb 7" takes us dancing into the centre of the self. Finally, the one chord suspense and delicate jangle of "A Long Standing Dream" carries us off into the warming soup of the collective consciousness. By means of depth placement, psychoacoustics and spatial fug, Pablo’s Eye is experienced in the deeper reaches of the body, bypassing the conscious part of the mind entirely. More than anything, Pablo’s Eye is a temporary atmosphere, like a taste or a dream..." 


Hot on the heels of Stroom's NSRD retrospective LP comes the perfect companion piece, a quartet of the group's most danceable tracks combined onto one maxi 12". If, like me, you're obsessed with minimal wave, mutant disco, NDW, grooving post punk and bedroom funk, you're gonna lose your shit for this one. Opener "Neskaties" hits us with clanging, clattering tin pan percussion, dubbed up drum machines, shoulder rolling synth bass, trumpet, and a floppy disc full of cut and paste samples. I'd have bought a copy on the strength of that alone, but when the pastoral electronics, circular melodies and solid 4/4 of "Ziemelbriezu Pajuga Pa Rigas Juras Lici" I feel like I've borrowed Mario's flying hat and shot way beyond the clouds - lush, lovely, lo-fi euphoria! #e-tune. Seguing seamlessly into darker, dubbier territories via "Nujorkas Taksometra Pa Manhetenu", this A2 animal allows you to mix out at a sunny 120ish or take things into the murk at 80bpm - Mega! Keeping the quality high on the B-side, "Augu Nakti. Kada Rita. Sovakar " locks us into a slow and steady trance dance, gothing away with a moonlit fusion of gloomy electronics and Gregorian chant. "Splivens" signs off in emotive fashion, approximating the end-of-season melancholy of a Depeche Mode classic as a proto Italo-house/NDW fusion - sounds mental, is mental....aaaand totally unmissable.


STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Stroom follow their NSRD LP with a killer maxi dance 12" for the adventurous DJs out there. Lo-fi electronics abound on this ace slice of underground Latvian oddness - Dejot!


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Thanks for posting about it. It’s here until next Friday May 3rd btw. https://t.co/PgaFhSvpPe
Wed 24th - 8:58
Yes! Thanks @NME for the feature. Come and visit @ianbrown https://t.co/ilKYdZmAtx
Tue 23rd - 9:48
It’s great isn’t it?! Glad you liked it and hope your wish comes true.🤞🏻 https://t.co/ZPlM8ry6f5
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Thank you. Come back soon. https://t.co/wahwb4Pvw2
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