Taking a direct cue from our weekly FM Brussel radio show’s playlist, and in no particular order of preference, these are the year’s 25 Belgian releases – anything from full albums to EPs and even single tracks – that made an impression and left a mark.
1. STR – Wonderland Vol. 1 (Self-released on 15th August)
Bass-heavy codeine-laced rap by this fresh-faced Brussels-based rapper/producer. His debut effort, Wonderland Vol.1, featured a strings of unsuspecting underground hits as well as what is probably the freakiest album cover to hit streets this year.Listen to the full album here. Listen to the exclusive mix STR record for us here.
2. Lawrence Le Doux – Pollution (Released on Vlek on 28th August)
With what is surely one of the feel good tracks of the year – A1 – Lawrence Le Doux’s Pollution, a five-track EP of layered soundscapes and playful house, cemented the bearded producer’s standing and status amongst the local scene.Listen to it on Bandcamp here. Check out Lawrence Le Doux’s pick of favourite Belgian releases here.
3. Raketkanon – Rktkn#2 (Released on KKK Records on 6th March)
The follow-up to their 2012 debut, Rktkn#2 saw the Ghent-based outfit continue with their signature sound of heavy-duty post-90s grunge. Definitely a band to see live.Listen to the full album on Soundcloud here.
4. La Jungle – La Jungle (Released on Rockerill Records on 17th January)
Without a doubt one of the surprises of the year, La Jungle’s debut album is an instrumental gem of math-rock with an incredible dose of groove. Featuring what is probably one of the country’s best drummers of the moment and a frontman that juggles both guitar, synth and sparse vocal duties, the band have been on a relentless touring schedule ever since.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
5. Wulfy Benzo – Dogglefox (Self-released on 26th April)
Waldo Pardon, otherwise known as Wulfy Benzo, is an 18-year old writer, rapper, producer and visual artist originally from Leuven and currently based in Brussels. Somewhat of a virtuoso on the mic, the kid delivers hard-nosed rhymes on a slew of bass-heavy productions that he describes on his Bandcamp as cough-syrup themed rap music. The performance he gave at our launch party at Wiels on 11th September was nothing short of mind-blowing. Big up young gun.Listen to it on Bandcamp here. Listen to the exclusive mix Wulfy recorded for us here.
6. Arbeid Adelt – Slick (Released on Excelsior Recordings on 30th October)
The cult Belgian post-punk / synth-pop act burst back onto the scene this year with a new album following a 20 year hiatus. Sticking to the same formula as before with just a little more bass than usual, this album confirmed the trio as one of the enduring groups of the 80s generation. Standout tracks include Apparaat and Navardauskas, both of which we played a few times on our FM Brussel radio show.
7. Bepotel – Start Up Label 1 (Released on Bepotel Records on 2nd September)
With a tendency to tilt toward techno, Bepotel – a group that includes producers Sagat, Walrus and Aepos – released this three-track EP this year on their own imprint. Offbeat, atmospheric and layered techno music that only could have come out of Belgium. Also caught us off guard as a live act at Schiev Festival.Listen to it on Bandcamp here. Listen to an exclusive mix Walrus recorded for us here.
8. Yokai – EP01 (Self-released on 26th February)
Hypnotic and psychedelic afro-funk straight out of Brussels, Yokai – a nine-piece outfit – pretty much took our offices by storm with the release of this debut EP earlier in the year. With hints of soul and jazz added to the mix, the debut’s fourth track, Pink Lady, is a stomper, and one which we played repeatedly on our FM Brussel show. One of the discoveries of the year. Make sure to also check out the band’s sister project, Kangling.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
9. Shetahr – A sausage has 2 (Self-released on 8th April)
Driven by animalistic drums, edgy guitare and a howling voice that’ll bite your face off, Brussels-based three-piece outfit Shetahr (Lotte Beckwé, Nick Defour and Maarten Raskin) dabble in trash-pop that makes you dance. Raw, messy and gutsy, the band’s debut album is a raucous and rapid succession of angst-riddled anthems. Think The Rapture in their early days, or even The Chinese Stars. Also an act that takes on another life live.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
10. KZK – Voorzet (Self-released on 17th February)
The revelation of the year, KZK is the side project of The Sound of Belgium director and writer Jozef Devillé and Pablo Eekman. Think Dutch raps, bass-heavy beats and club bangers. Belgian highway music, with a touch of Man Bites Dog. Steen na Steen’s a clear chart topper, as is Wuxhi Wuxhi.We can’t count the amount of times we ended up in stitches at the office listening to this.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
11. DSR Lines – Analogie van de Dageraad (Released on Jj Funhouse on 29th March)
Released on Antwerp’s Jj Funhouse (who recorded an exclusive mix for us a while back), DSR Lines’ Analogie van de Dageraad is a soft-spoken journey into the more experimental fringes of electronic music. Recorded as a set of live improvisations and released as a limited edition C45 tape, the album – the brainchild of David Edren – is a sublime piece of work, subtle in its twists but firm in its command. Favourite track: Rotor, which we selected for our Locals Only playlist on 22tracks.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
12. Front de Cadeaux – Infordrogues (Self-released in January)
The project of Rome-based Hugosan and Brussels’ DJ Athome, Front de Cadeaux is a Belgo-Italo producer-DJ duo that turn techno upside down by, mostly, playing it a the wrong speed. Or, as they describe on their Soundcloud: “we play only wrong speed sessions. 45 rpm played at 33 rpm using a special selection of 12” And the end result is nothing short of brilliant, with their production output defined by dirty base lines and raunchy rhythms, making for a sexy and sultry sound that, well, we can’t get enough of. Look out for three new releases in 2016.Listen to the EP on Soundcloud. Listen to an exclusive mix they recorded for us here.
13. Sounds & Vision – The Golden Years (Released on Wool-E Tapes on 17th October)
Given Lieven De Ridder’s background as the founder of legendary reissue label Walhalla Records, you could say that this project was a long time coming. A mixture of danceable beats and old school 80s new wave music, Sound & Vision’s debut – released exclusively on tape by Ghent’s Wool E Tapes – is a melancholic yet hard edged release. Four tracks, all originally recorded for aimé le chevalier, Lieven’s DJ alter ego, and all pitch perfect. Our personal favourite, and a heavy rotator on our FM Brussel radio show, is The Walking Song.Listen to it on Bandcamp here. Check out Lieven’s pick of favourite Belgian releases here.
14. Christophe Clébard – Amour et Bites (Self-released on 17th June)
Probably one of our favourite releases of the year, this seven-track album is a punk-electronica effort like no other. Released digitally and on tape – with artwork that astutely illustrates its title – Amour et Bites is a lo-fi, low budget yet nonetheless impressively hard and honest album – painful at times but full of guts. One we played more than a few times on our radio show, with the choruses of L’amitié sans confiance and La vie est merveilleuse pretty much office anthems by now. Check it out for yourself.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
15. Billy Palmier – Werner (Released on Citywurl Records on 9th November)
The Brussels-based producer Billy Palmier doubles up as an IOS developer and his latest app, Werner the Windy Penguin, is a runner-type game that sees a joyful little penguin take to the icescapes in a three-level challenge. And, to accompany the game, Billy has produced a three-track soundtrack of warm and cosy beat-infused funk for Werner to march a beat to. Lovely.Listen to it on Bandcamp here. Download the app here.
16. Pruikduif – Janapaman (Released on Music Mania Records on 16th October)
Pruikduif’s post-punk grooves were brought to our attention thanks to Bright Entity (the duo made up of local Dj Walrus and singer Ciska), who tipped the four-piece as a Belgian band to follow. And, with this debut release, the Ghent-based outfit burst onto the local scene, its blend of short-fused energetic speed-garage for all touching all the right spots.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
17. Ssaliva – Be me (Released on Ekster on 18th August)
Brought out on Antwerp-based Ekster, Ssaliva’s Be Me is a layered and rich concoction of textured ambient music with clear electronic undertones. Released as a beautifully-produced limited edition vinyl, Be Me is more soundtrack than anything else.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
18. Sokoto – Do Corredor EP (Released on Tangram Records on 26th June)
Soft and light-hearted beat music from Leuven courtesy of Tangram Records-signed Sokoto. This four-track EP could very well be the perfect background music to a walk in a field full of sunflowers. Fluent, the EP’s first track, is an office-favourite.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
19. Woodie Smalls – Soft Parade (Released on Kijken Mag on 18th September)
2015 was a stellar year for this upstart rap act from St Niklaas. Indeed, following the release of two singles – Champion Sound and About the Dutch – the quick-witted rapper followed them up with a full-blown album, Soft Parade. A slew of radio appearances and opening slots later, and the name Woodie Smalls is on everyone’s lips, his 90s era boom bap a firm crowd pleaser. Our favourite track from the album? Neighourhood Dreams.
20. Aymeric de Tapol – Horizons (Released on Vlek on 20th November)
Moody and ethereal, Brussels-based French producer Aymeric de Tapol’s release on Vlek came just as the winter was kicking in. And what a perfect soundtrack it proved to be. Experimental electronica at its best, with Les Attractions our favourite track of the album.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
21. It it Anita – Recorded by John Agnello (Released on Luik Records on 3rd October)
With its signature mix of angst-ridden post-90s grunge and noise-infused punk rock, the Liege-based four-piece released its second EP this year, recorded, as the title aptly suggests, by John Agnello (of Sonic Youth, Silver Apples, Kurt Vile and many other indie darlings). With a total of four tracks running at a little over 30 minutes, the follow-up to last year’s self-titled debut sees the band doing more of what it does best: hard-nosed yet nonetheless melodic indie rock music for grownups who left their soul back in the 90s. Make sure to catch one of the band’s many live shows, as they’re truly something to be seen.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
22. Hypochristmutreefuzz – EP (Released on FONS Records on 20th January)
A band we interviewed earlier this year, and whose debut EP was on heavy rotation both at our offices and radio show, Ghent-based experimental noise-rock outfit Hypochristmutreefuzz isn’t the most prolific of acts, but when they do come around to releasing something it’s pure fucking bliss. The EP’s first track, Schizophrenic Blues is pretty much an anthem to us.Listen to it on Bandcamp here.
23. Chrome Brulé – Chrome Brulé (Released on Kasset and FONS Records)
Armed with vintage synths and metal-faced masks, Chrome Brulée make new age funk for the new millenium. And, with this first full-length album, the band released seven tracks that transport the listener back to the 80s. Think Dam Funk with a tad more oumf to it.Listen to it here.
24. Underground Wave 7″ (Released by Walhalla Records on 7th September)
The only compilation to have made it to our list, Walhalla Records’ Underground Wave 7″ brings together a collection of rare Belgian and Dutch tracks previously only released as singles on 7″ vinyls. Following on from the label’s acclaimed Underground Wave compilation records, of which four editions have already been released, Underground Wave 7″ includes well-known names of the local minimal, synth-pop and new wave scene such as 701 Triangle, Bene Gesserit, Vitor Hublot, Solid State and many more. A record we drew upon heavily for our radio show this year, and one any collector will want to add to his archive.Listen to it here.
25. Ypsos -10ème étage (Released on Wakos Music on 28th September)
For former NBA fans such as ourselves, an album whose debut single is a banger of a track called Mugsy Bogues, complete with snippets taken out of cult movie White Men Can’t Jump, can’t go wrong. A French MC based in Brussels, Ypsos – who also is part of rap group Ligne 81 – released 10ème étage with a string of boom bap, old-school flavoured tracks that pretty much made it one of our favourite hip hop releases of the year. Standout tracks include “Avant tout”, “10ieme étage” and, of course, “Mugsy Bogues.”Listen to it here.