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"Naive overlooked New Beat / New Age project from 1989"

Sometimes in life, a certain incentive is needed to convert talent into productivity. As for the case of MKS, the enigmatic and musical disguise of Nicolas Aubard, it was a merely coincidental encounter at the end of the 80s that set the stone rolling. For Nico, it all began in his hometown of Saint-Quentin in Northern France. At a young age, he got obsessed with Japanese and American cartoon culture. Being a devoted collector of cartoon-related toys and widgets, he spent hours watching anime series on TV and creating scale models of science fiction and horror-related sceneries. Growing up in a musical household, young Nico took on stringent training in classical and jazz piano. But, frustrated with the fact of not being the technical virtuoso he wanted to be, he turned away from his training at the age of 16. “I had no choice, as I felt as if my creativity got limited by my piano. That’s when I got drawn into the world of synthesizers.” Not long after, Nico put together a home studio and started to experiment with ambience and sound-inserts. Despite years of experimentation and music making, all Nico’s productions stayed between the 4 walls of his modest home studio. Something that would change in 1988, when Nico bumped into Emmanuel “Manu” Prevost.

“We met on a night out in Lille”, Nico recalls. “I usually just stood by the dj booth, as I wasn’t a good dancer. So instead of throwing shapes at the dancefloor, I started a conversation with the dj, who happened to be Manu. By the end of the night, I handed him a demo tape of the album I was wanting to do.” Propelled by good fate, a fruitful collab happened between Nico and this dj. For Manu, everything also fell in place: “At the time, I was looking for a composer to work on producing a new beat record. As a dj, I often crossed the Belgian border for gigs and this new style was in full explosion over there. I heard Nico’s songs and naively told him: “Let’s make an album”, without knowing how.” Despite the high hopes for the new alliance, the project turned out to be a shot in the dark. “I assumed Manu already had some experience, as he proposed to do the mastering himself. But funnily he only told me after the release of the record that it was his first time too. But you know, we managed.” Not willing to release under his own name, Nico came up with Musical Keyboard System, abbreviated as MKS. The alias was born and the journey ready to take off.

The album finally released in September 1989. After the release, Nico went on a low-key promo tour together with Manu in Northern France. “We aired a video clip on FR3 for two songs, together with a short interview. In their studio, we created a scrimpy décor with some green plants to resemble the Vietnam jungle (as for the track Nam Revelation) and we shot the clip. Manu even lay down behind a screen operating the fog machine.” As a live act, MKS’ career was rather short-lived, with a first and final gig in the Theatre of Saint-Quentin a few months after the release. “In France, we would remain illustrious strangers. Yet in the meantime, our music got played on new age radios in the USA.” After the end of MKS, Nico moved to Paris and Manu took on his military duty. In the army, Manu met movie animator Jacques Rouxel (the man behind French cult series Les Shadoks) and got him in touch with Nico. The duo collaborated with Rouxel on some compositions, before they went their separate ways at last. Nico went on to pursue his childhood dream, as a pioneer in France for integrating 3D animations into classical cartoons. Manu in turn became a producer for feature films.

TRACK LISTING

A1. The New Age Of House
A2. Twilight Zone
B1. Figure
B2. The Dream
B3. Nam Revelation

Creak​-​whoosh (Estonian, Ingrian and Votian song re​-​imagined in Australia by Olev Muska and Mihkel Tartu)

‘Creak Whoosh’ is a collection of choral ballads originating in the Finno-Ugric regions of Estonia and Ingria, electronically adapted predominantly by Olev Muska and Mihkel Tartu, based around the contemporary arrangements of Veljo Tormis.

Originally established as ‘Kiri-uu’, the project was undertaken by the children of Estonian refugees, most of whom grew up over 8,000 miles away in the metropolis of Sydney, Australia. With the majority having never visited the land of their ancestors prior to the tour of 1989, the first generations reshaping of these ancient folk tales conveys Seeger’s process amidst displacement and its subsequent fringe-culture. Estonian bards are carried forth this time into the 21st century, a revised selection of the original 1988 recordings accompanied by ‘Tšimmairuudiralla’ allowing for new perspectives and, perhaps crucially, a truly global audience.

TRACK LISTING

A1. Veimevaka Jagamine/Distributing The Dowry
A2. Tsimmairuudiralla
B1. Piirileikkilaulu/Roundelay
B2. Ilus Neiu Kiigel/Pretty Girl On A Swing
B3. Harjumaa Lepikud/The Alder Groves Of Harjumaa
B4. Hallilaul/Lullaby
B5. Meri Kiige All/The Sea Under The Swing
B6. Viire Tagant Tulevad/From Beyond The Horizon
B7. Kiik Tahab Kindaid/The Swing Yearns For Gifts

For this latest bit of archival activity Stroom pay a visit to Belgum's Dender region in the early years of the 80s, picking up the strangest lovesongs from White Light and Jo Bogart for our audial enjoyment. For the A-side, Ziggy cherry picks the standout tracks from 82's "White Light" and 83's "Playing In A Band". Melancholic but beautiful, "I Want You To Know Me" filters the charm of the Velvets through a bedsit greyscale, while "I Hear A Whale Song" is tremulous bass tones, gloomy drones and ritualist drumming topped with sparse vocals. Over on the flipside we hear from White Light's original bassist Jo Bogaert (better known to me for some of his MEGA New Beat productions) who pours out his reverb soaked heart over the simple drum beat and guitar of "Would You" before stealing the show via the bass driven post-post punk groove of "So Obscene".


STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Stroom introduce us to the bedsit pop and melancholic wave of Belgium's Aalst with this retrospective 12" featuring the wavy indie of White Light and their OG bassist Jo Bogaert on a solo tip. "So Obscene" takes first prize for me.

TRACK LISTING

A1. White Light - I Want You To Know Me
A2. White Light - I Hear A Whale Song
B1. Jo Bogaert - Would You
B2. Jo Bogaert - So Obscene

Betty Arden / Saskia

Funny Bells / Sloopy

    Stroom wish us a very merry Christmas in typically monchrome fashion, dipping into their endless supply of Dutch coldwave cassettes to bring us this seasonal 7" of experimental pop. On the A-side, Nosedrip nabs "Funny Bells", a Betty Arden contribution to the "Is That You Santa Claus? (Oscar's X-mas Carols Vol. 3)", a 1986 tape limited to 100. After an opening of, well, funny bells, Betty lays a melancholic guitar over a simple drum box, then tells her tale with rich multitracked vocals. Bedsit folk for the win!
    On the flip, the ace and odd "Sloopy" interlude from Saskia's 1983 cassette gets a first time on vinyl, drifting from crystalline ambient through DIY funk before settling into a wonky minimal wave ballad.

    TRACK LISTING

    A. Betty Arden - Funny Bells
    B. Saskia - Sloopy

    Susannah Stark

    Time Together (Hues & Intensities)

    Time together (hues and intensities) is the debut album by Susannah Stark. Susannah has been active as a visual artist for some time and in recent years started working with sound as a central element of her art installation works. At the same time, she began feeling drawn to music and voice as a creative medium. Coming from a family of musically minded people, from a young age she was exposed to a mix of rock, folk and pop music, fiddle and piano lessons. 
    These songs, formed out of vocal improvisation and exploration into different dimensions of softness in relation to the voice - a longstanding interest for the artist - focus on a heightened sensory experience of voice blended with keyboard synths, resonating trumpets, distorted percussion, guitar feedback, samples and field recordings. Composed between 2017 - 2020, these songs came to fruition over a period of time coinciding with an awakening spirituality in the artist. "Time Together" is an attempt at describing the beginning of a journey into self knowledge and spiritual awareness through music, creating something soothing and meditative that is also percussive and bass heavy to convey a diversity of spaces, places and emotional states navigated through voice and song.
    Album opener "Saturn" reflects bittersweetly on past romantic encounters whilst giving an indication of what’s to come, as the understanding of what it is to love broadens and deepens, birthing new realisations and anticipating change. Soft voices resonate at a frequency that can soothe and aid in healing, but also at times be deceptive when considered along with what is being said. This is explored in "Dear Beloved Friend", a track which arose out of research into the favouring of Scottish accents in telesales, and also in phone scams. At times however, softness is integral to survival, particularly when faced with the heaviness of a world in which ego is allowed to dominate, a theme in "Unnatural Wealth".
    "This Is For Us" responds to an ever changing living situation; impermanence, moments of dissonance, fragmentation and (re)connection with others, while "Remind You" is a timeless message of support and encouragement offered to a friend and younger sibling.
    "Can Of Worms" was inspired by the teaching of selfless action through meditation and yoga contained in the Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse Hindu scripture known in english as ‘the song of god’. Meanwhile the soundscape of "Reprise" was intended to evoke landscapes inhabited by early Christian mystics in the western isles of scotland. 

    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Saturn
    A2. Dear Beloved Friend
    A3. Reprise
    A4. This Is For Us
    B1. Remind You
    B2. Can Of Worms
    B3. Unnatural Wealth

    Smalts / Human Flesh

    Periodiciteit / En De Stad

    "And the city opens up its streets to me again.Gloomy and damp, walled by wet surfaces, Which the pale glow Bouncing off a languishing moon. She shows me her reddish bars without any embarrassment, Where the sex yawns against the black decor."

    TRACK LISTING

    A. Periodiciteit
    B. En De Stad

    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:

    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Organized Pleasure - Tropical Stumble
    B1. Satin Wall - Dans Les Profundeurs

    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.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Breathe
    2. Cloud Over Maroma
    3. Lost Time
    4. Embers
    5. Flute Dance
    6. Kazimierz
    7. Cast Reflections
    8. Star Chamber
    9. Endless Road
    10. Mezquita (part 2)
    11. Birdsong For The Birds
    12. Want Of Anger
    13. Ritual

    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.

    TRACK LISTING

    A1. White Bird
    A2. Akahito
    A3. My Lesbian Girlfriends
    A4. The Monkey House
    A5. The Desert
    A6. A La Recherche De BL
    A7. Free At Last
    B1. Jehudah
    B2. Who Is Still Dreaming?
    B3. Memories
    B4. The Luckiest Man
    B5. A Peaceful Vale

    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...

    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Elegant Shout
    A2. Alone
    A3. You're Like A Cigarette
    A4. Skeleton In Love
    B1. Fit Of Nerves
    B2. Boys & Girls
    B3. Everybody Knows Me
    B4. It's Not Too Grand

    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.

    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Worship & Passion
    A2. More Hesitant Than Before
    A3. Different Observers
    A4. She Would Stand Alone
    A5. He Closed His Eyes
    A6. When You Were Asleep
    B1. L.A. Desert
    B2. She Told Him The News
    B3. Tamil Nadu
    B4. A Pagan Use
    B5. Out Of The Corner Of Her Eye
    B6. Loisaida Dub

    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.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Les Lieux
    2. The Third Body
    3. We Could Bring You Silk In May #2
    4. Between The Mist & The Sky
    5. Our Lady Of Sins (Vesica Piscis Remix)
    6. Untitled For Now #3
    7. Bloodsucker
    8. This Is Almost A Happy Ending 

    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.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. You're On Your Own
    2. Hold Music
    3. Happiness Is Within Sight
    4. Your Bones, Your Skin
    5. The Night Draws Near
    6. Abandonment
    7. Hold Music II
    8. Your Future Was Planned
    9. Untied 

    Walter Verdin

    Voor Adeline

    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.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. De Zus Van Adeline
    2. Squeezin'
    3. Dreamin'
    4. Wavin'
    5. Lancement
    6. Vijf Tape Loops
    7. De Zus Van Adeline (Playback Mix)
    8. A Million Miles (Pas De Deux) 


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