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STROOM

This album is the result of some musings on what drives us in life and how we come to terms with our place in the world. I wrote it around the time I was finishing my philosophy degree. I had also come to a point where I wanted to make music that was more personal, emotional and conceptual than before.

We are deficient creatures. Powerless and ignorant of reality as a whole, and unfortunately our characteristic existence makes us painfully aware of that. Reality is fundamentally hostile (or indifferent rather) and we are not well 'fit' to live in it. We try to deal with this through emotional means. We seek comfort for our deficiencies, a sense of purpose and belonging...

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.

Lhasa

The Attic / Sexor

"To understand where “The Attic” came from, we have to go back to one of my oldest memories: watching Der Phantastische Film on German tv. The movies that left the deepest marks on me were the ones that zoomed in on the possible bad sides of technology and predicted the downfall of mankind. A next personal cornerstone was Tubeway Army's “Are 'friends' electric?”, from 1979: it was the first time I was blown away by the sound of synths. It felt so new, an expression of the perversity of technology through music. The song was about androids who seduced humans in order to rape them. The shortcomings of human beings transported to technology. It was machines turning against humanity. It wasn't like Kraftwerk who were very first degree, unpersonal and too clean.

I was an early adopter of home computers, but the instruments and studio stuff to make music were still out of my reach in the early eighties. So when sampling came along, for me it was not only an important change in sound image, but it opened up all these possibilities too. And then finally, in the mid-eighties – I was working in the military – people started selling their hardware to make the switch to digital. I bought loads of old gear and started experimenting with sound. It was around the time when the whole new beat thing exploded in Belgium. I despised it. To me they were yuppies with smileys plundering a subculture, shitting out one bland record after another... At the time I was listening to B-2 Unit by Sakamoto, or the weird electropop of YMO. That's probably where my idea of techno was shaped: this idea of electronics mixed with the German Bauhaus school, or with abstract Malevich paintings.

I quit the army around 1990, and shortly thereafter I had a dark dream that caused me to make 'The Attic'. I was in the attic of a house. It felt magical, but there was a sense of underlying danger. I looked up and the roof came off and started to dissolve, and I heard voices with bird like frequencies calling from the cosmos: “come with us, come with us.” Maybe it was about the deification of technology? Anyway, the image and the feeling of the dream were so vivid I transcribed them to music in maybe two days.

When the demo was finished, we went straight to Boccaccio and handed it to Olivier Pieters, who immediately played it. 'The Attic' went on to become one of the signature songs for which they switched on the big lasers. It started to live its own life: I heard it in shopping streets in Amsterdam, it was blazing from cars, it was huge in Germany after the wall fell, etc.

I quickly realized the music business wasn’t something for me though: all these people with their profiling urge, the bootlegs, the fact that music got pushed into formats ... In retrospect, I was part of a scene without really taking part in it."
Alain Raes, Lhasa

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Taking a break from the ambient, wavy or weirdo releases, Nosedrip drops a couple of killer 12"s featuring his favourite Belgian bangers from the New Beat / techno / pre trance era. Boccaccio classic "The Attic" kills it on the A-side with chirping electronics, lysergic synth leads and doomsday pads riding a rugged drum box breakbeat and sequenced bassline into the future. On the flipside, "Sexxor" ups the tempo to rattle through the most vicious acid techno around. Huge!

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!

"Spoki (Ghosts)" is the sound of an artist putting their private world to tape. Of exploring and pushing the limits of themselves and technology to realise the music in their head. Recorded in Riga between 1988-2011.
As Ingus Baušķenieks himself explains: “My own world differs a little from my friends' tastes. And - as my father said - the collective art is not art at all." 
The music of Ingus Baušķenieks is both deeply private and completely alien. Experimental yet happy to celebrate pop influences such as Engelbert Humperdinck, Simon & Garfunkel or Fleetwood Mac. It is shaped by the artist’s engagement with technology and his strive to put to record his ‘own world’.
As Ingus explains, it is the sound of him: “doing what I like to do.”

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: The Stroom hot streak continues this week with the strange and beautiful world of Riga musician Ingus Bauskenieks. The eleven tracks on offer cover 23 years of odd-pop experiments, bedroom sonnets and synthed up chuggers. In other words, this is power Balearic, Latvian style…

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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