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July 5 2014 7 05 /07 /July /2014 01:15


I get loads of hits on the translation I did of Philippe Cornet's interview with Annik Honoré. I need to write something now she's passed from this world. Fortunately, others have had more eloquence.


Richard 23, Front 242


Annik was one of the first person believing in Front 242 in our very early days. She's the one who made us play gigs in Brussel's Plan K where only the best band could eventualy come and play.

A little later she was in charge of promotion for our first label and made so much noise about us everybody was obliged to know who we were! She was with us on our first USA tour back in 84 as tour manager (pic).

Ever since we were friends. Annik is sadly no longer with us, she left our world last night at the age of 56.

RIP Annik et merci.


Gilles - Denner


This morning, I learnt that Annik Honoré, a friend from Brussels had passed away aged 56, after losing a two month fight with an acute illness.


Annik was a radient person, gentle and passionate about music. She was the co-founder of Brussels label “Les Disques du Crépuscule”, the cousin and European bridge-head of Factory Records. With a handful of music loving friends, she organised gigs at the (in)famous Plan K, Manchester Street, Brussels. You couldn’t make it up…

Annik’s story, young intern at the Belgian embassy in London, crossed that of Joy Division and Ian Curtis in July 1979, at the Nashville Rooms in London. There followed a fusional intellectual relationship between the two of them, which ended tragically 10 months later with Ian’s suicide. Annik would always avoid the subject – despite the slurs and criticism. She respected the family’s pain, even if her own was also dreadful. She was always reserved on the subject and seldom spoke about it.


She always listened to lots of music. Loudly – she was an activist. Always looking for new sounds and listening to newcomers, enthusiastically underwriting new albums, as she did for us, Denner.


I had only met her, through a friend, her ex-compangnon, in 2007 or 2008… From messages to the “Des Jeunes Gens Modernes” exhilition in Brussels, and Italian lunches at her place, she had entrusted me with some of her archives for a book project on Rock in Brussels at that exciting turn us the ‘80s. I hope we will be able to finish that adventure with Les Editions de Juillet and her Brussels friends.


Just for her


We’ve lost a very beautiful person.



Paul – Str8line records & No Tears


Sad news indeed. I was lucky enough to meet her and talk at length about music. She was a passionate woman, with a wide culture, who really liked the artists. Strength to those close to her.


Yvan - De Volanges

A beautiful person in every way you can use the word… We will all miss her… Than you Annik for all you have done…


James Nice, LTM records:

Annik wouldn't have wanted any big fuss made but it's so nice that people care.


Marc Deprez – The Names


Sadness, of course, but let’s remember her radiant smile and her infinite charm. A beautiful person, something that all who met her agree upon.


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October 24 2013 5 24 /10 /October /2013 17:44

Listen whilst you read:



I do like things that are recorded quick and simple without too much fuss. It sounds so live and natural. Especially when you have a great voice like Sandra’s and you can write songs like the jazzy “The Day” or the mournful “night Shields”.


Oh how wonderful it is to hear a Francophone artist sing in impeccable English with lyrics that make sense. (“Space Vortex sucking my brain in…”)


Simple instrumentation – jazzy drums, stand up bass, processed Spanish guitar. There’s a very Portuguese / Brazilian vibe through “Transat”, “What If I” almost Cardiacs like in the energy and rhythm. Generally it makes me think of Carmel with a Latin/Jazz twist and just a touch of Brussels surrealism.


Sandra and Dany (the guitarist) are one of the most infectiously enthusiastic acts going on the Brussels scene. Now with a proper band an great original material. Must get out and see that.



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July 29 2013 2 29 /07 /July /2013 01:38

Rock Olmen, Olmen, 26 July 2013

How do you pigeon-hole Muse now-a-days? Progressive pop-metal? It suits In-Kata from Antwerp. They're a pretty tight outfit, with a singer both sounding and looking like a cross between Matt Bellamy an Ozark Henry. Though the next number has a real funk-metal flavour to it, not unlike Living Colour.InKata--1-.JPG



Damned good band. I thought I'd be pleasantly surprised by a few things here at Rock Olmen, as the lineup includes a few bands I've been watching for a while, and it's absolutely top to see them all on the same bill at one of the many rock festivals we seem to be treated to in Belguim. But at the moment, there's more of a garden party atmosphere, with families sat in the shade of the trees enjoying the excellent catering from a local Thai restaurant.



Fortunately, I bump into most of Rosa Parks, and can get a CD off them. Unfortunately, I don't get there in time to see them, as I'd missed the signposting for the carpark, and the GPS has trouble with the temporary 1-way system.


But Recorders are on. The crowd is a lot less sparse than it looks, hiding in the bar or in the shade. The band has made huge changes in their sound (and lineup?) since I first saw them when they sounded rather Interpol-ish about 5 years ago, but now, M83 / Glasvegas are more appropriate soundalikes. It's actually quite a varied set - some stuff works well, some falls a bit flat. But generally, they've gone down quite well with the punters. The song where Gordon takes over the bass got a particularly good reaction, and I was pleased to see they included some older material. Current single Purple & Gold works far better than I was expecting live. I'm looking forward to the debut album in October.Recorders (1b)


This whole area at Rock Olmen is about the size of 2 football pitches, with a (very) large bar and a couple of buildings. And they have 3 (three!) stages, offering almost continuous music from late afternoon to late night. And it's time for the 1st act on at the 3rd stage - The Chapel.


This clammy, dark, low ceilinged room is just the perfect scene for the sort of intimate and attention grabbing lo-fi post-folk-rock that Mister & Mississippi have on offer. Soundslike? Mumford & Sons with better tunes, a drumkit and no banjo. Or Sighur Ros gone accoustic(ish). Or Daughter. It is utterly beautiful music - fabulous songs, two wonderful voices, two fantastic guitars, lyrics that suck you into the story.


Best surprise of the day? No. I don't think I should be surprised at all. Whoever has programmed this knows, as I do, that there is some fabulous stuff to be found if you look for it. And the looking has been done.




Coasts, from the UK, are OK, but their rather whatever plinky guitar pop sound only works for about 2 songs for me. Catchy, singalong, well performed? Yes. Variety? No. But they finish in perfect time for...


Float-Fall--2-.JPGFloat Fall. Rather cute boy-girl duo, both singing, with him on guitar and her on synths & French horn. More lo-fi, but this time electronicish. Shame about the technical hitch that caused the late start - I liked that and could have stayed for more, but it's time to swap the oppressive clammy heat of the Chapel for a lighter summer evening air, a persistant wiff of cow-piss, and...






The Black Heart Rebellion. Oh my! Doom laden post-rock from the darkest of souls screaming with feedback, thundering bass, manic drumming, and a voice darker than Nick Cave in his darkest hour. The chanted screams of these tortured souls haunted in the chaos of their despair. 

It really sucks you in and gets you emotionally committed. The stage is lit strictly from the back, making the band look like ghostly shadows against the backlight. The music is like taking all your hate, violence and negativity into hell, where it belongs, and walking out again. Fantastic.



BRNS--3b-.jpgBRNS strike me straight away with the originality of the instrumentation and vocal harmonies. The whacky noises coming from the guitar, the percussionist and bass player doubling up on synths (not a sequencer or laptop in sight), the bass often foremost in the songs, the drums often providing a leitmotiv, and three of the four band members alternating on lead vocals. They have mastered the art of putting a break in the song that has you wondering what on earth will come next, and the ideas can be both very simple and incredibly creative at the same time.

Storming set. Not once did I think "soundslike". Not once did I lose focus from the stage. The only disappointment was that they didn't come back out for an encore, cause like the rest of the crowd, I was braying for more.



Will Johnson, over from the US with just a guitar is in the chapel 5 minutes later sounding like a cross between Don Mclean and Seasick Steve, but the lure of chips and some real raw rock'n'roll are too tempting to stay for longer than one song.


Greeting the crowd through a haze of dry ice with "Tomorrowland... SUCKS", The Hickey Underworld waste no time in grunging up the amps, and are dripping with sweat before the first chorus. They prove to be a phenomenally good rock band - the sort you smell before you hear them. The guitars sounds are fabulous, the musicianship is terrifying, and I find it totally void of subtlety or originality.THU--1b-.jpg

Yes, I know - that's not the point, and I may well have dissagreed with myself if I'd had a proper skinfull and had chosen the campsite instead of the drive home.


CDD--3b-.jpgHa! Tomorrowland strikes back! The final treat for this evening is this year's Humo Rock Rally winners - Compact Disk Dummies. It's not really good rock, and it's not really good dance, but they fuse both styles together and make it work very effectively, and the kids love it.

They have a knack for making the predictable breaks unpredictable by making them last longer. The guitar is - err - efficiently simple, and fortunately not omnipresent. In fact, it's hard to tell if they have any musical talent at all, or if they just hit lucky by having no clear idea of what they want to do or where they want to go with the toys they got for Christmas and just wasted time away playing with a laptop in the bedroom. Having said that, I wouldn't at all be surprised if they end up producing the next Madonna album.CDD--6-.JPG


What they do have is an uncanny talent for working the crowd, with a fair amount of crowd-surfing, including Lennert himself - without missing a note.


This is the sort of band that you warn your kids against going to see, but they're old enough to be my kids, and I can't help but like what they do and how they do it.

Wot??? - D'you expect me to dance as well???



Judging by the handfull of tents in the campsite and the dozen or so cars in the car-park, (and the large number of bikes just outside), I'd guess that very few people have travelled far for this edition of Rock Olmen. I'm glad I did.

In the war against overpriced, overhyped, oversold, over-mediatised super-hype, this was quality music, quality food, no queueing, great buzz, and unbeatable value for money.


They won the battle with their armour down.

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June 25 2013 3 25 /06 /June /2013 13:07

Day 3. If you were playing and don't get a mention, it's for one of the following reasons.


1. I missed you cause I was watching something else

2. You were crap/defective/dickheads, and not worth seeing again

3. I couldn't be arsed


In the case of the Punk lineup on stage 2 today, it's option 3; Only 1 (today at least) is in option 2; Option 1 is extensive.


Leopold Tears - after about 4 comments of "they sound fantastic from here", I finally managed to get to stage 1. Emergenza Belgium 2013 winners (apparently), the 1/2 song that I heard was an immaculately executed Muse-like rock anthem.

Oh - Bugger - Early start -Could have had some more of that.


Subsonic Hornet - A band I know quite well. A band whose fine blend of simultaneously subtle and ultra-violent guitar blends sort of suggest Sonic Youth. A band whose acerbic lyrics suggest gratifying retaliation against the drabness of the everyday. A band that draws me in and spits me out like the bitter cynicism of a Fonctionnaire condemned to seek meaningless  resolve in some lost emotional tangent somewhere on the other side of a galaxy far, far away. Duck! Imperial fighters!


A mention for Dirty Bees on stage 2, as their brass section caught me for a minute there. I could have stayed for the whole of their ska-punk set were it not for a more 'pressing' 'call' that 'had to be attended to'.


Le Baron 5 - I like a lot. Dancy, happy post-punkedness with lead synth instead of guitar. I just can't fathom how I managed to miss all but 2 songs. Festivalitus.


Kaizer Place, just in case you read the grossly over-hyped bio (the only reason why they're getting a mention – it’s such bullshit it deserves putting into perspective), were flat as a fart. They had by far the smallest attendance of any of the 4 stages throughout their set. The burger bar had better attendance. (and if you ask me, was considerably more palatable).


Thot - What a glorious cacophony this is. I have nothing, really, to compare this semi-organic industrial noise to, but it is such a detailed, intense, well put together act that I'm just in awe of it. The performance, the orchestration (2 synths/drums/guitar/bass) are all superb, yet I frustratingly don't feel the emotional connection to the music that I feel I should have. Somehow not quite my thing, though I can’t quite work out why. But they are fantastic musicians led by an extremely charismatic front-man, and were a popular choice with the punters.


I popped over the road to discover that the over-friendly nutter who’d been prancing around in a state of somewhat gay and inebriated abandon in front of Thot is the drummer / singer with Body Juice. An – err – eventful performance, interesting musically, and frightfully entertaining for the rest. The trio of guitar, bass and Octopad have no programmed backing or drum machines, so spontaneity is de rigueur. Like spontaneously spilling beer over the bassist, knocking him over whilst licking it off and having to sprint off to the bar to get a refill; spontaneously jumping off stage to run round the block in an attempt to find the bastard who had nicked Judith, the band’s mascot (a nude clothes dummy – also legless); spontaneously pausing the set so the bassist could go for a pee; spontaneously hitting the wrong program on the Octopad and not quite noticing that it somewhat threw the song. But that’s all right, as the format allows for that sort of thing.

The musical interludes were catchy and original, and the band is to be commended for putting up with each other’s advanced state of intoxication. A respectable and merry audience suggests I’m not the only one thinking this could be worth catching when they’re a bit more together. Or maybe not…


26 Tears – With a bass player something between Plastic Bertrand and Steve Severin, a drummer who might once have sported the good looks of Patrick Swaze, a large purple baby-doll geisha with the most vivacious fountains of hair, and the ever cheery Floch, who later explained that his unique guitar style came from coping with sciatica on stage, it is no surprise that this lot are finely tweaked and tight as gnat’s chuff. The amps, of similar vintage to the band, belch out a glorious racket reminiscent of the Banshees at their turning point between Punk and Goth. Reagan’s voice is also worthy of Siouxie comparison, and cuts through the evening with an almost casual recklessness. All in all, a mighty fine way to finish off the festival.


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June 23 2013 1 23 /06 /June /2013 16:06

I irritatingly managed to catch about 2 minutes of Tervueren before having to go off to see Taxidermists, then run off to Another Belgian Band, to pass Peplum on the way to Rodolphe Coster. This was going to prove to be a real festival day, with clashes, smashes and splashes, and the odd gem.




Serious Kids - The Cramps sounding like Lords of the New Church with a hint of Birthday Party. Oh yes - this was an absolutely stunning lecture in stagecraft and alt-rock attitude. Nuff said. Must see again.


Thom C - Better voice and better songs than Jasper Steverlinck (Arid). His soaring light tenor with immaculate pitch and amazing technique combined with some excellent songs wowed everyone in the room.


Rodolphe Coster - Wild electro-bonkerdness with a Joy Division flavour to it. He pulled a sizable crowd and kept them captivated. The most original and engaging one-man-performance I have seen in a very long time.





OK - your voice is fab, you make the minimal accompaniment work well, but an entire set consisting of the covers of the songs that have most irritated us for the past 5 years is really not a smart move.


I can appreciate that you can sing 5 notes fairly well, but don't go past that range, as it gets badly out of tune. I've heard better arrangements from a 3rd year classical guitar ensemble.


I was looking forward to you lot, but left after 30 seconds to avoid ear damage. Don't drown out the drummer. And don't bark into the microphone in an attempt to hear yourself above the guitars - it sounds crap.



Honourable mentions:


Another Belgian Band, for again coming out with some fantastic tunes. They have not lost their magic touch for really very quirky subjects and intertwining melodies, and I'm looking forward to the pending album.


The Kongs - last minute stand-ins, and a good solid, entertaining old-school hard-rocking set.


She Goes Electro - verging on mid-period New Order at times, with a very lively and enthusiastic front-man.


Peplum; Yoko Syndrome; Ambulance; The Paranoid Grill - I only caught snippits of this excellent 4 hours of indie-pop-rock on stage 2. All are worth talking about in more detail, but as I can't have caught more than 6 songs between them, that will have to wait. 


Taxidermists - As fresh and entertaining as they always are, their unique combination of pure Punk attitude and Brusseleer humour managing to make a very serious point about not taking anything too seriously.


The Vogues - More punk à-la-Brusseleer, this time with a classic British flavour, and a rather irritating festival clash with Serious Kids.


Julien V and Mathias Bressan - both of whom I missed almost in their entirety, but I could tell from the crowd reactions that they were both popular choices.

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June 23 2013 1 23 /06 /June /2013 14:39

70 bands over 3 days, almost all of them from Brussels.


For links, etc., please see the official line-up and presentation here.


Not time for a proper review, but there were some notable highlights. In priority order of who I'd go to see if they were all on at the same time:


We Stood Like Kings - Monumental post-rock. They've ditched the laptop and slimmed down to a trio (Guitar/Keys/Drums) since I last saw them, and they are way better for it. Far more emotional content, soaring melodies, walls of noise. Beautiful, intense, absorbing music.


Laids Comme Vous - A street band - no amplification - just 4 guys (who all sing) and a cacophony of instruments, including a washtub bass and a washerboard. Fantastic energy and humour. Crowd loved it.


Grand Larceny - 1st time out with their new singer, and she's a cracker. Pulling off Amy Winehouse's 'I'm no good', and reminding me of Sadé. And a host of other great tunes. They hung on to the crowd left over from...


Sunkie's - 2 girls singing, a piano and a cajon. Pulling off some fabulous close-harmony R&B. They brought a good, young crowd with them too. It was so nice to hear that sort of stuff stripped of all the ego and production crap, and stripped down to just great songs and great vocals. Very impressive.


Monotrol Kid - 1 guy, 1 guitar, great songs - Tom Waits, Nick Drake, Roddy Frame - lovely set.


Soldier - Mmmm. Lena Lovich? Siouxie Sioux? Rock with a bit of Alt, a bit of pop, and a lot of voice.


The Monroes - Fabrice is always a good gage of quality. It's a reflection of just how good the line-up has been tonight that he's only number 7 on the list.



In the "Other bands to see again", in no particular order:


IDEMM - Youngest band there judging by the crowd of schoolkids they brought, and despite lacking a bit in maturity, a very solid poppy performance from these young lads.


The Abelians - Brussels answer to The Doors. Complete with the voice. Just a shame I was busy running about sorting out technical issues and couldn't see more.


Eric in the Kitchen - Raw post-rock shoegaze. Sort of My Bloody Valentine for Nirvana fans. I liked very much.


One Legged Dog - I completely missed them, but the visuals looked fantastic from outside, and heard good reports.


Philaretordre - One man + guitar + loops. Lovely stuff, and again, I caught far too little of it.


Swingers - More post-rock with a harder edge. This entire stage has been a fantastic lineup for post-rock fans.


Théa and the Mugs - cause I love the stories she has to tell and she does it with such a sweet voice.

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May 31 2013 6 31 /05 /May /2013 16:47

Translated by Jez from an original article by Michel Preumont Clickez ici pour lire en Français

Say it ain’t so, Joe please, say ain’t so ... not RickyBilly! (one of the local wildlife - ed.) Holy shit, you stumble across this cackling Aztec more often than your wife, the evening will be challenging!


On the menu tonight Evi Vine and Perverted by Language, so not surprisingly, most of the audience are Fantastic Nights regulars.


At 8:50 p.m., the DJ, Fred-la-Cerise, yields to those who have chosen the sixth album by The Fall as baptismal name:

Perverted by Language.


ev2.JPGLed by the cavernous voice of gentleman farmer, romantic Jez (Jeremy) Thomas, the postpunk / new wave band would sway the cavern with a set 30 minute set of singular density and depth.


Two faces  recently seen with Subsonic Hornet, Elise Boënnec on bass and Ronan Collot on guitar – Francesco Carlucci on drums and razor-sharp second guitarist Guy Wilssens.


Binary drumming engages a first essay that the setlist defines as 'Trial', a voice from beyond the tomb delivers a dark discourse; guitars chime; the pumping, typically post-punk bass stamps a monolithic tempo; the frontman’s possessed gesturing beckons. He seems to be in league with some prince of darkness that haunts his nights.


Cap screwed on a threadbare head, he has all of a Dickens character furrowing through squalid London alleys in the twilight.


'Colors' One shouldn’t expect an opal beach, dark tones prevail, you’re steeping in a Joy Division / Chameleons bath.


A winter atmosphere particularly suited to the gloomy weather that has left the good people morose.


In fact, it is not by chance that Jez is called Thomas, there's Pere Ubu, British flavour in his motile, unduly mannered language.


You suspect the noble Jeremy, beyond his upright, bourgeois appearance reading the Times while returning from his job in some government department, has some clandestine engagement in satanic rituals, the narrative 'Derivatives' has everything of an incantation, clothed in dark intonations chanted at the Witches Sabbath.


Dramatics and opulance: 'Mayo'! (Everyone should have a friend like Natalie – ed.)ev3.JPG


The mischievous shine-head picks on a poor wretch in the audience – “you know, today is Francis Rossi's (Status Quo) birthday – he’s hit the wise old age of 64, I suppose he's your favourite guitar player ... almost, I prefer Plastic Bertrand, the creature retorts... anyway it's a good reason to play ‘When I'm 64’ in a Quo stylee”, or rather 'All my mother's favourite nightmares', sharp guitars, Shelley tone, a Gothic Poem set to music!


Jacket off, skull exposed, not quite a strip act, not his style, the squire strikes a pose, sentry style.


We thought we’d seen John William Waterhouse sketching on a Jupiler box.


Solemnly, he declames  a text ('Medication') to a martial drum roll while guitars shred the composition and cute Elise, on her knees, pummels the four string.


A guest for the last one, Steven Hill (Evi Vine), the hypnotic 'Pewter Eyes' Sir Thomas comes chanting sat on the steps, well before the end of this harrowing piece, and finding  no solace in the applause of mere mortals, he leaves his acolytes for the stench of the city.


The highlight of a remarkable set!



Evi Vine


From London: Evi, ethereal voice, guitar - and four multi-instrumentalists: Steven Hill (guitars, drums) - Ben Roberts (electric cello, keyboards, guitar) - Sam Astley (guitars, bass) - Ben McLees (bass, guitars , percussion).


An album, 'And so the morning comes' in a second one in gestation, several tracks on today’s menu.


File under?


Difficult to categorize: slowcore, dark / goth indie, minimal wave, some shoegaze, some trip hop, indie folk ... in bulk, PJ Harvey, Lamb, Portishead, Cocteau Twins, Hope Sandoval ...


'The Dreamers' vaporous entrance, slow and majestic, moody is most appropriate the term, a frail and haunted voice, with Kate Bush intonations, wanders into this fluffy fleece universe dominated by the mournful cello.


Fragile – handle with care!



'Inside her', Steven strokes his instrument with a bow, Evi’s voice becomes Mazzy Star, the moods created merge the universes of Lamb and Sigur Ros, as for the pictures, they are impregnated with a Byronic romanticism ... And the touch of her skin feels like heaven! ...


ev14.JPG'Hands are tied' is a new song, same atmospheric and melancholic soundscape.


The ballad 'If it's love', with subtle arrangements and an immaterial voice, takes her closer to Beth Gibbons.


'For You', a track from an EP, a slow lovesong of chilling beauty, before the spooky 'I let you leave', crammed full of psychedelic effects.


Where postrock meets Jefferson Airplane, a surprising but effective cocktail.


Another new one, 'Starlight', she seems to want to wander paths used by Bat for Lashes and Florence and the Machine, and the final piece is still untitled.


Evi abandons her instrument, grabs the microphone with both hands and whispers a haunting cold wave lament.


It took her 30 minutes to sign the pile of albums snapped up after this fascinating concert.

Evi Vine tonight in Liege, then the mini-tour ends with three dates in Germany!



Interview with Evi & Steve by the Blackmarquis:

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September 15 2012 7 15 /09 /September /2012 01:11

Concours Circuit 2012

Brussels Botanique, Friday 7 September 2012

cc1.JPGShe died while hunting

Start with a bang, this is not. To be honest, the dear and owl masks look naff, the guitars (for this is 2 guys each with a guitar) are going nowhere, and playing to an audible click-track ain’t tops. I’ll stroll off for a beer and hope they’ll have started by the time I get back.

 Oh shit – there’s vocals. And pseudo post-rock / shoegaze guitars with the occasional cringe for an FX change. Next!


cc2.JPGCougars in America

Nice clean vocals. In fact, I really like his voice. The guy doing the lead parts (dobro, banjo, lapsteel and mandolin) is excellent as well.

 I was just going to class them as Alt-country-folk, when they come up with something that wouldn’t be out of place at a Bar mitzvah.  These 4 lads (American/Italian unless I’m mistaken) are quite something to keep me interested throughout the set, but it leaves me blank emotionally.

cc4.JPGAnother Belgian Band.

Song writing. Right from the first few bars, and throughout the set, the songwriting is magnificent. And the casual, relaxed, easy instrumentation to go with it is spot on.

 To dare to have 2 lead vocals singing dissonant lines is not something you hear every day. Nor is the variety of the songs, from stories about the Mid Life Crisis to the rocking Claudia. Nor is the complete lack of effects and sound processing on the instruments.

 For the last song, they get the PA turned off and the lights turned up, and walk into the audience, spread out, and play fully acoustically. Which is just brilliant – they’ve already won over the crowd, but you can tell by the looks on people’s faces and the complete silence that they’re strong contenders for the final.cc3.JPG


cc6.JPGI wasn’t over impressed with this lot last time I saw them. They’re still a drums/guitar duo with good songs and a soulful voice. And “Has potential”?

 Well the guitar sound has been seriously beefed up. There are not many FX pedals, but one of them is an Electro-Harmonix Poly Octave, and the way he uses the thing is just monumental. The sound is enormous, which is just the ticket when you’ve got so much space to fill. And the drums are vocals, whilst still tight and soulful, are much wilder and let rip.

Totally different from last year. They’ve taken this minimalist duo concept, made it their own, turned it into something unique, and made it rock with avengance. More finalists, I hope.


Beautiful Badness

Either they’re going to be really good, or they’re going to disappear up their own backsides. It’s just one of those tough calls where you can’t stay and review the last band because the organisation is not sufficiently organised to run the evening to finish in time for public transport. And despite the pianos and guitarist in a class straw trilby that suggest we might get something a bit Maroon 5-ish (you can take that straight if you want), I’m not going to be hanging around to find out.

Which is a shame, because there was enough time to get on with things and fit their set in, and I think they would have made for an entertaining read.

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June 26 2012 3 26 /06 /June /2012 16:40

Fête de la Musique


21, 22, 23, 24 June 2012


The venue is provided by the TAG, just off Place Rogier. The music direction comes from Soirées Cerises, the Brussels organisation that has programmed in venues across the town over 600 gig in the past few years. The sound installations provided by the Communautée Française for the Fêtes de la Musique.


Soirées Cerises events are always a good thing just to turn up at, as you get everything and anything, but usually good, sometimes awful, and sometimes utterly sublime.


With 70 acts on this weekend, I didn’t get to see everything by any means, and not everything merits a mention, but there was plenty of choice, and I was able to fill my time with some stuff that ranged from the pretty good to the utterly sublime.



Théa and the Mugs


Bubbly, sparky Théa sings French folk-pop songs about the people and the world she lives in. With a competent backing including Thierry from the Déménageurs, and Vince from Camping Sauvach, it’s not necessarily brimming with originality, but I’ve rarely seen this sort of stuff done better. Should go down a storm at something like the Francofolies.


Recommended – Citadelle, featuring a bandura – a wonderful harp-ish type instrument from Ukraine.





Let’s be kind and describe the vocal delivery as “limited”, but what does make the appeal of this local singer-songwriter is the quality of the songs, and blues guitar playing straight from the Mississippi delta. With a bit of voice coaching, he’d be absolutely riveting.


Not sure as a performer, but as a songwriter, he's brilliant.



Crumble Pistoos


My first impression was a bit Vismets. Young lads, loads of attitude, poppy rock with synths. But the buzz about the Pistoos is quite different – it’s clear that they’re not focussing on disappearing up their own arses with overinflated egos and unrealistic expectations, and they are just going to keep to what we like, namely rock hard and party.


Some of the later songs make me think of Duran Duran or a hint of Psycadelic Furs, and despite a vocal performance that has all the finesse of an Andean peasant hill chant, the frontman does have one hell of a stage presence. Top marks also for the back 3, who are tight as a gnat’s chuff and brimming with energy, and the guy playing the lead parts on synth is truly excellent, and just gives them the edge over other power-pop rivals.



Dany Sand


Sandra has a natural talent for spreading joy and happiness through music. There’s a mix of original work in immaculate French and English, and a very diverse range of covers, all accompanied by Daniel’s versatile and original acoustic guitar playing.


Chris Isaak’s Wicked Games shows off her amazing range and vocal technique, and her take on Relax takes the song to a completely different level, leaving Mika’s original far behind.



Chloé and the Lonesome Cowboy


If you like simple atmospheric indie that creates its own unique soundscape for you to lose yourself in, you’ll love Chloé and the Lonesome Cowboy. Chloé’s charming voice and delightful guitar are beautifully enhanced by the Lonesome Cowboy’s delicate drumming and subtle electric piano.

As charming off the stage as on, whitnessing this labour of love was one of the highlights of my weekend.



Akim and the Brats


Who??? Yes, that’s what I thought. Last minute stand-ins for Rhinestone Lives, whom I was quite looking forward to. But as soon as the duo launch into their brand of pure Americana, we know we’ll be staying for the whole set.


It turns out that they’re Canadian exiles here in Brussels. The drums through the laptop are a bit tinny, but they are normally a trio with a regular drummer. The other thing going through the laptop is a Hammond emulator, which was every bit as good as the real thing.


Blues rock isn’t usually my thing, but their songwriting is quite different, and when it’s run with that kind of sound on the guitar and organ, it’s highly captivating, and topped off with the musicianship behind it, totally compelling.



Box Story


Good crowd to see Leticia’s solo project, but the simple guitar playing, accented English, and breathy voice leave me with the impression that she’s trying too hard to conform to an idea of what she wants to be rather than just letting herself go and being a bit more herself.





The scraggly American looking uncomfortable in a cardigan and trailing a cheap guitar bag has most of the audience popping out to the bar. But you should never judge on appearances alone. The bag opens to reveal a beautiful Gretch, and the youth steps up to the microphone to deliver a handful of songs that totally captured me with the wonderful imagery of the lyrics.


Despite a set of only 4 songs, and a somewhat uncertain demeanour, this was one of those magical moments I’ve only come across a handful of times in my life. The vivid imagery in the lyrics and the departure from tried and tested songwriting formulae of Brendan’s lo-fi folk have made me an instant convert.


I believe I have witnessed one of our era’s greatest poets. 15 minutes of sheer bliss.



Vintage Dinosaur


Back on the jungle stage, they’re running rather late, owing to a lost drumkit and a plethora of technical problems and some rather strange variations on the concept of plugging and getting on with it. So it’s a relief to see these three lads have brought some proper kit and a proper attitude with them.


They plug in, turn on, and rock.


I can’t see them becoming household names, cause there’s a lot of bands doing this sort of brash indie-punk-glam rock, and you need to be truly exceptional to stand out, but they’re good, and they’re entertaining, and great value for money. The only real disappointment was that they had to cut their set short to help catch up with the timing issues.


But that did mean I got to see…





The idea is novel – take a song, kill it, and stuff it with something that brings it back to like again. The dead songs are things we’re all familiar with, stripped down to a recorded backing, and stuffed with some rather unsubtle guitar and bags of true Brusseleer humour and attitude.


David’s stories behind the songs are a vital part of the act – as much rock as stand-up cabaret, so it does help if you understand French. And most of the audience evidently do, as they are laughing their nuts off. Original, entertaining, and brilliantly put together.


A fine way to end what is only a snippet of the 70 acts that were on over the weekend.

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February 7 2012 3 07 /02 /February /2012 01:13

Human Tetris, Magnetic Poetry

DNA, Brussels

6 feb 2012


I only found out about this yesterday, and given that the main act might sound a bit like Monozid, and have travelled a long way to get here, I really think I should make the effort and get my arse out. But with so little time to check things out, I have no idea what I'm really going to get.

DSC 0153

Magnetic Poetry


I wasn’t expecting the support act to be from Moscow as well! Looks like we’re in for a Russian evening!


The opening notes from this boy-girl duo are distinctly post-rock, but the laptop backing is rather synthpop. As soon as Oskana kicks in, I’m starting to reach for Bat for Lashes or La Roux references.


6th gig ever, claims Oskana in a way that suggests she’s about as calm and controlled as a rather small girl in a rather large candy shop.


I’m not a great one for love songs, but when they’re performed by 2 people who’ve clearly written them about each other with such charm and such naivety, the emotion just somehow spills out. (There is a lesson to be learnt there by a couple of local acts I can think of. No names...)


Yes, it’s naff, cheap synthpop, but it’s done properly with some great melodies, and that fresh-out-of-the-bedroom charm that prove that more “serious” acts like the XX have somehow missed the point.


Pure, honest, and not overproduced. Big grins all round, and that’s just the starter.


Human Tetris


DSC 0179There’s got to be a good story behind that name, but these four youthful Muscovites aren’t stopping to tell it.


The opening songs make me think of Editors – driving bass, shimmering guitar, and a fabulous baritone, but they’re strangely poppy with it.


They manage to plough through a very positive and upbeat set without being irritating. I’d noticed this with Monozid (with whom they share a lot of common influences) – they dare to do Post-Punk and go almost opposite of the doom and gloom you normally get, certainly in Belgium. (anyone remember the Lotus Eaters?)


The drummer had a touch of Stephen Morris about him (not just in the looks). And if you’d stuck a synth in over the top of “Baltic Sea”, you would have been forgiven for thinking it was a obscure Sad Lovers and Giants cover.


It’s always very revealing to hear what covers people play, and their version of Eurhythmic’sDSC 0134 “Here Comes The Rain Again” has be thinking SLaG (again) and The Chameleons at times.


No point in braying for an encore, as the bass amp has stopped amping half way through the last song, but some credit must go to the organisers who’ve managed to get the DNA almost half full, quite an achievement for an unknown out-of-town band on a Monday night when it’s 7 below freezing.


In these days of social media and information overload, where everyone is talking and has something to say, it pays to clap your trap and listen.



Summer in Crimea. Like.



Pictures with thanks to Pablo Fleury from  http://www.musictoknow.be


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