CULT CLASSIC: AKSAK MABOUL-UN PEU L’AME DES BANDITS.
Cult Classic: Aksak Maboul-Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
Nearly three years after releasing their seminal avant pop album, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine in the summer of 1977, Aksak Maboul returned with their much-anticipated 1980 sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits. It was the first album Aksak Maboul released on Marc Hollander’s Crammed Discs, and the second chapter in a story that began three years earlier in 1977.
In early 1977, Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis decided to turn what had been a dream into reality, when they founded a new band together, Aksak Maboul. By April 1977, Aksak Maboul had entered the studio and began work on their debut album.
Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine.
Over the next two months, Aksak Maboul recorded what was a groundbreaking genre classic, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine. Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis who were both talented multi-instrumentalists had decided to take charge of production of their debut album. This was a brave decision considering they planned on recording a truly ambitions album.
Onlookers watched incredulously as the three members of Aksak Maboul fused disparate and unlikely musical genres and influences. Everything from avant-garde to African music was rubbing shoulders with Balkan, electronica and experimental, to free jazz, rock and proto-techno. There was even elements of American minimalist, jazz and early twentieth century classical music on album where Aksak Maboul had cast their net far and wide for inspiration.
It was as if the three members of Aksak Maboul were delving into the furthest corners of their respective record collections. This included the influence of minimalist composer and pianist Erik Satie; avant-garde composers like Tony Conrad, Jon Gibson, Frans Geysen and Terry Riley, plus Brian Eno who had popularised ambient music in the seventies. However, it was free jazz pioneers like Sun Ra, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman who seem to have been a starting point for Aksak Maboul. Free jazz, which was referred to as energy music in the sixties seemed to have inspired Aksak Maboul as embarked upon what’s akin to a journey without a map. This brave and adventurous approach worked for Aksak Maboul, as they continue to combine musical genres and influences.
Rock pioneers Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground seem to have influenced Aksak Maboul as the three musical magpies drew inspiration from countless disparate sources, combined it into something totally different. Often, though, this wasn’t the end of this ambitious musical experiment, and this musical mosaic was then deconstructed, and incredibly, seamlessly became something totally different and innovative. Astonished onlookers watched as the three musical alchemists worked their magic on their debut album. It was finished in May 1977 and became Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine.
By then, onlookers realised that Aksak Maboul were no ordinary band. It was obvious even to the casual observer that Aksak Maboul were musical pioneers who dared to go where other bands feared to tread. Aksak Maboul it seemed, were determined to challenge musical norms and push boundaries to their limits. Onlookers speculated how this would turn out?
Music industry insiders and critics knew that one of two things would happen when Aksak Maboul released Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine in the summer of 1977? Aksak Maboul would either crash and burn, or their debut album Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine would be hailed as a groundbreaking, genre-melting classic? The three members of Aksak Maboul held their breath as critics and cultural commentators had their say on Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine.
Critics on hearing Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine which translates to Eleven Dances For Fighting Migraines, hailed the album as ambitious, imaginative and innovative. Some critics went even further, describing Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine as a groundbreaking masterpiece from a band who had a huge future ahead of them. For Aksak Maboul this was encouraging as they released their avant-pop classic, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine.
Later in the summer of 1977, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine was released on the Belgian independent label Kamikaze Records. However, Aksak Maboul’s debut wasn’t solely credited to the band. Instead, the album was credited to Marc Hollander/Aksak Maboul. There was a reason for this.
Much of the music on Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine was the work of Marc Hollander, and it was only fair that he received much of the credit for what’s now regarded as a seminal album, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine. However, when Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine was released by Kamikaze Records, which was only a small independent label, the album wasn’t a commercial success. The problem was Kamikaze Records was only a small independent label, that had neither had the budget to promote the album, nor it into the major record shops. However, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine became a cult album, and set the bar high for future avant-pop albums which are always compared to Marc Hollander/Aksak Maboul’s genre classic.
The commercial failure of Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine was a hugely frustrating and disappointing for the two members of Aksak Maboul. Especially after receiving critically acclaimed reviews and being hailed an avant pop classic. It was a case of what might have been, as a new chapter began in the autumn of 1977.
By then, Aksak Maboul who were still a duo had never played live. This was about change when two became four. Percussionist Chris Joris and keyboardist Marc Moulin had joined Aksak Maboul. They were meant to be the final piece of the musical jigsaw, when the band when played live. However, Chris Joris was soon replaced by Frank Wuyts and they would become the classic lineup of Aksak Maboul.
Although Aksak Maboul was now playing live as a quartet, they were often augmented by guest musicians who took to the stage when they played live or recorded albums. That was the case when Aksak Maboul recorded their much-anticipated sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits in 1979.
Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
It would be expanded lineup of who recorded the six tracks that became Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits. The core quartet of Marc Hollander, Vincent Kenis, percussionist Frank Wuyts and keyboardist Marc Moulin were joined by two English musicians, Fred Frith a bassist, guitarist, violinist and drummer and percussionist Chris Cutler. The two new additions would play their part in the songwriting process on an album of two parts.
Founder member Marc Hollander contributed A Modern Lesson, and wrote Palmiers En Pots with Frank Wuyts, which featured André Verchuren’s Trio. Frank Wuyt and cellist Denis Van Hecke wrote Inoculating Rabies while new recruit Fred Frith penned Geistige Nacht. The other track on side one was the traditional song I Viaggi Formano La Gioventù. On the second side was the most ambitious piece of music of Aksak Maboul’s three year career.
This was Cinema a near twenty-three epic that featured four movements. Catherine Jauniaux who had agreed to add the vocal to Cinema, wrote Ce Qu’On Peut Voir Avec Un Bon Microscope with Chris Cutler, Denis Van Hecke, Fred Frith and Belgian bassoonist Michel Berckmans. Meanwhile, Alluvions and Azinou Crapules was written by Marc Hollander and Frank Wuyts. Closing this four piece suite was Age Route Brra! (Radio Sofia) which was credited to “All The Players.”
When it came time for Aksak Maboul to record Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, All The Players made their way to Sunrise Studios in Kirchberg, Switzerland in February 1979. Sunrise Studios was still relatively new, and had only been founded by Swiss composer, musician and producer Etienne Conod in 1975. This was just two years before Aksak Maboul recorded their seminal avant rock classic Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine. It had set the bar high for Aksak Maboul’s sophomore album, but Marc Hollander, Vincent Kenis and the rest of the band were up for a challenge, and began recording what later became Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
Joining Aksak Maboul were the two English musicians Fred Frith and Chris Cutler, who were joined by Belgian vocalist Catherine Jauniaux, cellist Denis Van Hecke plus bassoonist and oboist Michel Berckmans, cellist Denis Van Hecke. This extended lineup of Aksak Maboul spent the next month recording the group’s sophomore album. However, after a month, Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits wasn’t finished, and Aksak Maboul returned home to Belgium.
Aksak Maboul made the return journey to Sunrise Studios in August 1979, where they would complete recording of Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits. However, it would be 1980 before Aksak Maboul’s much-anticipated sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits was released by Marc Hollander’s new label Crammed Discs.
Rather than release Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits on another record label, a decision was made to release the album on Crammed Discs, which was a relatively new label. It had only been founded earlier in 1980, and releasing Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits on such a new label wasn’t without a degree of risk.
Would Crammed Discs have the financial muscle and expertise to promote Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, and get the album into the larger record shops? This was where Kamikaze Records had failed, and had cost Aksak Maboul dearly. However, Crammed Discs was a very different label to Kamikaze Records, and after releasing Aksak Maboul’s sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, Marc Hollander’s label has released over 250 albums. That was still to come.
Prior to the release of Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, critics and cultural commentators had their say on Aksak Maboul’s long-awaited and much-anticipated sophomore album. The first time round, Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis who back then, were the only members of Aksak Maboul had held their breath as critics and cultural commentators passed judgment. However, by 1980 Aksak Maboul were flavour of the month among the critics and so was Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
When Aksak Maboul returned with Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, critics discovered another ambitious and groundbreaking album, from the new lineup of the band. Along with some of their musical friends they had recorded a much more experimental album than its predecessor Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine. There was also an intensity to this powerful, carefully crafted, genre-melting album. It showcased two very different sides to Aksak Maboul, who had written parts of what were incredibly complex, intricate horn charts and used Eastern scales in the multilayered arrangements. Other parts of the songs had been improvised by Aksak Maboul, including the hardcore ambient pieces. They had put their extensive musical arsenal to good use, as they combined a disparate and eclectic selection of musical genres.
This included mixture of traditional instruments including an oboe, bassoon, saxophones, guitars, bass and piano which joined the latest in musical technology, a drum machine. Aksak Maboul also used sampling despite 1979 being the pre-sampler era. Instead, they taped short pieces of sound including the flipper from a pinball machine, excerpts from the vocals of delta blues and added gibberish vocals. Aksak Maboul also took excerpts of popular tangos which were sliced and diced and then randomly reassembled to create a “new” piece of music, Tango. To the rich musical tapestry that was Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, Aksak Maboul added Bulgarian, crypto-punk, Polynesian, Pygmy and pseudo-Varese music on Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits. Add to this the influence of baroque music, the Canterbury scene, French café music and everyone from Frank Zappa to Henry Cow and Stravinsky and the result was bold and ambitious album of innovative experimental avant-rock. It epitomised the type of music that bands within the Rock In Opposition, including Aksak Maboul were recording in 1979. Once again, critics were astounded at the sheer variety of musical genres and influences that had inspired Aksak Maboul.
Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits was no ordinary album, with Side A featuring five dissipate dance tracks. Modern Lesson set the scene as a “twisted blues” track unfolds and gibberish vocals are joined by a guitar, cello and later saxophone, which play with a freedom and invention before the horn chart becomes intricate. Despite that, it’s a captivating track that is variously rhythmic, mesmeric and melodic.
Very different is Palmiers en Pots which comprises two short tracks. Trio from Nuits D’Argentine is a beautiful piece of wistful music that was originally written for a string trio. It gives way to Aksak Maboul’s slice and dice Tango, which is an irresistible dance track that is a reminder of how innovative a group Aksak Maboul were in 1979.
Geistige Nacht shows the two sides of Aksak Maboul. Initially, they’re a tight band, as the rhythm section powers the arrangement along as the saxophone and piano play leading roles. Later, and seamlessly, the band play with freedom, invention and the same urgency as before on what’s one of the oft-overlooked tracks on the album.
I Viaggi is a Turkish folk song where Aksak Maboul use a Middle Eastern scale, while the dumbeg and cello play traditional scales. However, the cello and vocal also double the melody line. In doing so, they play their part in a track that is initially haunting, hypnotic, ethereal and cinematic. Always though, the Turkish influence shines through even when the music takes on a more experimental sound, before becoming urgent as it reaches a rocky crescendo.
Inoculating Rabies is totally different from what’s gone before, and finds a bassoon and bass clarinet playing against backdrop of driving, anthemic rock and punk. It’s best described as bassoon punk where Aksak Maboul unleash angst, anger and frustration.
Flipping over to B-Side and critics and record buyers discovered Cinema, the four piece suite that made Aksak Maboul the toast of progressive rock fans. They were won over by a quite remarkable suite, which features four separate solos, including a six-string bass, acoustic cello, electric cello, and synths. Add to the equation woodwind passages that are deliberately become almost discordant and dissonant but are certainly moody and atmospheric. Later, the members of Aksak Maboul are sometimes transformed into psychedelic rockers, before showcasing their talent and versatility during short pieces of Middle Eastern music. However, on the final piece of the suite, Age Route Brra! (Radio Sofia) Aksak Maboul improvise and replicate what was a well known Bulgarian talk radio show. This brought to an end what was Aksak Maboul’s Magnus Opus on Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
It was one of inner reasons why Aksak Maboul’s sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits was released to widespread critical in 1980, and hailed an avant rock classic. Some critics went as far as to say that Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits was possibly the finest album released by a group from the Rock In Opposition movement. This was quite an accolade, given how much groundbreaking music was being released during this period.
Many record buyers won’t remember when Aksak Maboul released their debut album Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine in the summer of 1977, and the followup Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits three years later in 1980. Both albums are avant pop classic and feature musical pioneers Aksak Maboul creating ambitious, imaginative, inventive and innovative music that was inspired by disparate musical genres and influences. They play their part in Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, which is a carefully crafted musical tapestry and timeless avant rock classic that featured the classic lineup of Aksak Maboul as the created musical history for the second time in just three years.
Cult Classic: Aksak Maboul-Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
- Posted in: Avant Garde ♦ Blues ♦ Classical ♦ Electronic ♦ Experimental ♦ Free Jazz ♦ Improv ♦ Industrial ♦ Jazz ♦ Jazz Fusion ♦ Prog Rock ♦ Psychedelia ♦ Punk Rock ♦ Rock ♦ World
- Tagged: Aksak Maboul, Before and After Bandits, Crammed Discs, Frank Wuyts, Marc Hollander, Marc Hollander/Aksak Maboul, Marc Moulin, Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine, Un Peu de l'Ame des Bandits, Vincent Kenis