Pop music remains a fascinating two way street; universal, yet born of unique cultural moments that capture a time and place like little else. Belgian producer Locked Groove (of Hotflush and Turbo, as well as his own Locked Groove Records) has become known for his no frills house and techno, and is a loyal advocate for his home country's offshoot of pop music, Belpop. Though rich in history Belpop is not well known outside of its native borders, so the next round of Hidden Depths sees Locked Groove lift the lid on this fascinating sound.
Locked Groove: At first, I had the idea of choosing 10 of my favorite Belgian synth pop tracks, but when I started it I realized that a lot of it was, or is, a crossover. So instead, I chose my 10 favourite Belpop tracks. If you're thinking, What the hell is Belpop? then I hope these examples will help you discover more.
Allez Allez - "Allez Allez" (Scalp, 1981)
This is one of the biggest classics in my book. It almost has this surf rock vibe to it, and the bassline is to die for. I think I discovered this track when I was about 16. At the time, it opened a whole new world for me.
Wet - "That's The Game" Instrumental (S.T.D, 1983)
The instrumental of this record is the one. I found it in my dad's record collection. Sample spotters might notice that Moodymann sampled the first second or so on "Dem Young Sconies." It's one of my most prized records. I don't think I'll ever get tired of this track. It always amazes me how a lot of old stuff stands the test of time compared to newer music, especially when you realise that this is more than 20-years-old.
2 Belgen - "Lena" (Vogue, 1985)
There's almost no one in Belgium that hasn't played or heard this track at some point. It starts out pretty dark, almost with this new beat vibe to it, and then they flip it to this weird, painful lament about a girl called Lena—yet the stabs give it some sort of a happy vibe. What I love about Belpop that it isn't the most polished music around, and a lot of it shouldn't work on paper, but it just does.
Nacht Und Nebel - "Beats Of Love" (Antler, 1983)
This is probably Nacht Und Nebel's biggest hit, which has a really sad undertone to it. When this track was booming, the frontman Patrick Marina Nebel had to follow the success from a sanatorium. Shortly after that he died, after taking a fatal cocktail of alcohol and pills in combination with a heart disease. It's a really bleak story, but it was something really typical for Belgian music from that era; an angst of old industry closing down, and the poverty and unemployment it brings. This is also one of the main reasons I think why new beat became a huge success in Belgium.
The Caravan - "Somewhere In Arabia" (Target, 1987)
This record pretty much sums up what I said about Nacht Und Nebel. Hypnotic, dark and slow, the marching percussion underneath combined with the saxophone on top makes this a real trip. I'm too young to have been there when tracks like these were blowing up in clubs all over Belgium, but it still gives me a pretty good idea of what went on during new beat nights at clubs like Boccacio, or Ancienne Belgique.
Madou - 'Niets Is Voor Altijd" (Lark, 1982)
Another important thing for me in music is that, even if you don't know the language, the melodies and vibe take it to a level beyond language barriers. The beautiful simplicity of the melody makes it a true classic. I found it at a flea market in near mint condition for one euro, if I recall correctly. To give non-Dutch speakers a rough idea about the lyrical content, the track title is "Nothing is Forever." It's about a man telling a woman she's still a child, and that she doesn't understand anything.
To be totally honest, when I first bought the record the reason why wasn't the music. I didn't know the track at the time. It was because of the artwork. The cover is so amazing that it instantly drew my attention. Fans of pop art will drool over this cover.
La Cosa Nostra - "Violence And Passion" (FünfUndVierzig, 1985)
When you hear this track, you can understand why there was a Benelux side to Manchester's Factory records. Stuff like this was all around in the 80s in Belgium. The combination of synths and an almost punk rock guitar and drum parts make it a great example of Belgian music from that era. There's not much more to say about this track except "violence and passion, it's the same reaction."
Luc Van Acker & Anna Domino - "Zanna" (Wax Trax!, 1984)
The Belpop classics of Belpop classics. This track is so simple, but it works so well. Anna and Luc's fragile vocals, combined with the simple instrumentation, make this a pretty emotional piece of music. For people who don't know Luc Van Acker, look him up. He's a very important part of Belgian music, and founded a couple of revolutionary bands like Revolting Cocks, Arbeid Adelt! and more.
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