Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1. 

Label: Mayway Records.

Each and every weekend in life, record collectors around the world, spend their precious free time searching backstreet record shops, garage sales, auction houses and thrift stores in search of vinyl. Some are even willing to venture down into dusty basements or old warehouses in search of elusive boxes of vinyl that have lain undiscovered for years. Usually, the search is in vain, but very occasionally, the record collector strikes musical gold, and secures these boxes of musical treasure for a bargain price. That was what happened to the people behind the Belgian record label Mayway Records, who recently released the compilation Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1. 

The story behind the Belgian Nuggets 90-00s Vol. 1 compilation began in 2009, when VRT, the Belgian public service broadcaster, announced that it was selling off a large quantity of CDs from its record library. These were the CDs that record labels and hopeful artists had sent to VRT each and every day, in the hope that they would find their way onto the radio station’s playlist. However, only a few found their way onto the playlist, while the remainder languished unloved in VRT’s record library until the day they would be rescued by a local record collector. 

That day came not long after the future owners of Mayway Records saw the advert that VRT were selling off some of the music from their record collection. This was something that they were interested in, and they set out to secure this comprehensive collection of CDs.

Fortunately, they secured the collection of CDs, which they soon discovered gave them a comprehensive overview of two decades of Belgian music, the nineties and noughties. Having secured this huge collection of CDs, the next step was working out what to do with them?

Tony Vandenbogaerde the man behind Mayway Records, decided to make a career out the collection of music he had just bought. “I decided to make a living of it and began to sell them on eBay and Discogs. That was my full-time job for like 5-6 years. But while doing that, I discovered a lot of great Belgian music and the idea to do something with that, became to form in my head. In the beginning of this year I decided to do it and start a record label, and thus began the compilation series Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s.”

Fast forward to November 2017, and Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1 has just been released by Mayway Records. The compilation features twenty tracks, ranging from long-forgotten singles to B-Sides, album tracks and even the occasional demo. Most people, even many Belgian music lovers won’t have heard these tracks and Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1 is an opportunity to discover music that slipped under the musical radar during the nineties and noughties.

This includes Two Russian Cowboys’ The Spider In Love which opens Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1. Their lineup includes Luc Dufourmont and his daughter Cleo, who takes charge of the lead vocal. She unleashes what can only be described as a vocal powerhouse, on this irresistible hidden gem. It’s taken from the Two Russian Cowboys’ sophomore album Killem, which was released on MAP Records on 2005. Seven years later, The Spider In Love featured on the soundtrack to the British cult film Spiderlings. Now five years later, The Spider In Love returns for an encore on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1, and sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.

From the opening bars of Thou’s Don’t Ask, it’s obvious that something special is about to unfold. That’s no surprise, as previously, Thou have been described as on of Belgium’s pop’s best kept secrets. It doesn’t take long to realise why on Don’t Ask, a track from the Elvis Or Betty Boop album which was released in 2002. Don’t Ask is a tantalising taster of this truly talented group whose music deserved to find a wider audience.

After signing to Sony, Kolk released their debut album Nachtschade on Columbia in 1999. It opened with Lemmet, which starts life as  beautiful, elegiac example of electropop. There’s also elements of synth pop and later, blistering rock guitar on Lemmet, which was one of the highlights of Nachtschade, and eighteen years later, Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1. 

When progressive rockers The Same released their debut album Spoonc on G.R. Editions in 1995, their lineup featured some familiar faces. This included Anton Walgrave who was dividing his time between his solo career and the group Awake, who was joined by Aram Van Ballaert a classical and film composer and Dave De Peuter later of CPeX. One of the highlights of Spoonc was Swallow, a memorable and melodic driving track, where Klaas Goublomme’s fleet-fingered Hammond organ solo play a starring role. 

Although Sarge featured on Pop Machine’s 2002 Greatest Hits album, it sounds as if it was recorded in the mid to late-sixties. That was what Pop Machine intended, and set about to do. They were inspired by Francoise Hardy’s vocal and the orchestral sound of James Last and Caravelli, and set about combining these disparate influences on Sarge. This they do successfully, on what’s a carefully crafted and catchy example of orchestrated perfect pop that brings back memories of another musical era. 

Tania Gallagher and Bart Demey first became Nid and Sancy when they released their debut single Be Yourself Tonight. A year later, in 2005, Nid and Sancy released their debut album Talk To The Machine, on Surprise Records. It features the anthemic track What You Want/What You Get which sounds as if Nid and Sancy have been inspired by the Chemical Brothers early albums like Exit Planet Dust, Dig Your Own Hole and Surrender.

One of the real finds on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1 is Wizards Of Ooze’s Bright Day, which featured on their 1996 sophomore album Bambee! It was released by Backbone Records and was one of a trio of albums Wizards Of Ooze released during the nineties. Bright Day finds Wizards Of Ooze fusing lounge and acid jazz on this ballad. They provide an understated backdrop while Zap Mama’s Sabine Kabongo takes charge of the lead vocal, and plays a starring role on  what’s the best track on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1.

By 2000, the Brussels based electro-trip hop project Airlock was preparing to released their sophomore album Drystar on the One Little Indian label. It featured In The Mouth Of The Fish a spacey, lysergic instrumental with a cinematic sound that’s another of the compilation’s highlights.

When The Beautiful Babies recorded their sophomore album Serenade in the summer of 1993, they brought onboard producer Martin Rushen who by then, had worked with everyone from The Stranglers, Buzzcocks and Joy Division to XTC, Deke Leonard and the Human League. Later in 1993, Serenade was released by EMI and featured one of The Beautiful Babies’ finest songs Angelina. Unsurprisingly, this hook-laden slice of perfect pop was released as a single, but sadly, didn’t find the audience it deserved.

Closing Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1 is Psychologica, a track from Gèsman’s debut album Slich Van ‘T Eten, which was released by Radical Pigeon Recordings in 2004. It’s a track that emerged out of a jam session, and in parts, sounds as if it was inspired by The Grateful Dead and The Doors. Gèsman combine a falsetto vocal, shimmering keyboards and searing, soaring guitars that cut through the arrangement. They’re part of a genre-melting track where Gèsman combined elements of pop, psychedelia and rock on a track that shows another side to Belgian music during the nineties and noughties.

Although I’ve only mentioned eleven of twenty tracks on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, they’re just some of the highlights of what’s hopefully, the start of a successful compilation series. It looks back at the nineties and noughties, when Belgium was fortunate to have such a diverse and vibrant music scene. Proof of that is the music on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s. It’s a reminder of what many Belgian critics now regard as a something of a golden period musically.

During this twenty years period, bands and artists in towns and cities across Belgium were creating many different genres of music. This included everything from pop, progressive rock, psychedelia and rock to Acid Jazz, electropop, lounge and trip hop. These genres and more are all represented on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, which was recently released by Mayway Records

The twenty tracks Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s include long-forgotten singles, B-Sides, album tracks and even the occasional demo. There’s also anthems, hidden gems and hook-laden perfect pop. Sadly, most people, even many Belgian music lovers won’t have heard of the tracks on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1, as they weren’t played by VRT, the Belgian public service broadcaster during the nineties and noughties. Fortunately, these tracks make a welcome return on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, which is the perfect opportunity to discover some musical treasure that slipped under the musical radar first around.

Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s Vol. 1.

1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

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