Despite keeping a relatively low profile over the past couple of years, Belgian indie dance duo Soulwax have not tempered the ambition that kicked off their now-legendary project almost two decades ago. Formed by brothers Stephen and David Dewaele in 1995, Soulwax spent a decade as Belgium's best-dressed rock group before launching their As Heard on Radio Soulwax mix series and pivoting into a pioneering role in the proto-EDM bloghouse craze as DJs. The pair reinvented themselves again in 2002, recasting themselves as world-beating main stage selectors under the name 2ManyDJs and swiftly defining the sound of post-millennial electro. By the time everyone else caught up with the dance-rock power of electro DJ sets, the Dewaele brothers brought back Soulwax as a rave-ready live band that made the superstar DJs they shared stages with look like kids checking their email in comparison.
For Soulwax, being in a band has become easy. You wanna do something really cool? Play in 15 bands at once.That's just what they did for their latest release, a soundtrack for the film Belgica, directed by Felix van Groeningen. The film tells the story of the rise and subsequent fall of two brothers who own the titular nightclub in a clamorous Belgian indie scene—a scene which Soulwax helped define IRL. Throughout the course of the film, music takes center stage at the club through fictional acts like the power-chord-mashing homeland heroes The Shitz, mysterious pop singer Charlotte, the Turkish acid folk of Kursat 9000's. Rubber Band's orchestral disco, and the 8AM keta-tech of Noah's Dark. All in all, there are 16 tracks on the Belgica soundtrack, credited to 15 different acts. Soulwax conceptualized, wrote, recorded, and performed every single one of them.
Since the Dewaele brothers were the sole architects in every sonic aspect of this imagined Belgian scene, it seemed to us that they were the only ones qualified to evaluate the acts involved in this fictional-compilation-cum-film-soundtrack. So to try out an even more novel creative endeavor, we had the pair take on the role of shitkicking indie bloggers to offer some more insight into the lives and careers of the acts they created out of thin air for Belgica. Check those reviews below, alongside a full stream of the record.
1. Charlotte - "The Best Thing"
She was the queen. She was everything. Her shows were minimal in terms of backing, but with just one synth and her voice she conveyed more emotions than anyone else. She was the one who was going to break out of Ghent and conquer the world until she was tragically killed by a jealous lover.
2. The Shitz - "How Long"
This indie band was already much too big for Belgica when they came to play but that one show changed everything. The place suddenly became cool and this single turned out as one of their biggest hits.
3. Rubber Band - "Caoutchouc"
Forgotten orchestral disco record that the Belgica DJ's saved from obscurity and made their own by playing it at 33rpm +8 instead of 45rpm as it was supposed to be.
4. White Virgins - "Turn Off The Lights"
Four girls from Belgium whose seminal gigs were the epitome of 'electronic music played by a rock band' as opposed to by a laptop. Their biggest influence was that Love and Dancing album by The League Unlimited Orchestra. Apparently they are now DJ's.
5. Light Bulb Matrix - "Hot December"
This track is off a reggae LP that used to be played at Belgica at the end of the night, which is really (after)noonish by Belgian standards. It was either a wake up call or an incentive to keep going depending on how you looked at it.
6. Kursat 9000 - "Çölde Kutup Ayisi"
Born and raised in Ghent, Kursat proved immigrant integration can work! He had a knack for mixing Turkish pop with acid house which blew Belgian kids' minds.
7. Erasmus - "Ti Ricordi Di Me"
Two Italian students who stayed in Ghent after their foreign exchange studies and now run an organic Italian coffee bar for lesbians. Their shows were notorious and instrumental in ushering in the Electro Era at Belgica.
8. Burning Phlegm – "Nothing"
These guys were a sort of supergroup formed by members of legendary local hardcore punk bands, albeit featuring Iggor Cavalera (Sepultura, Mixhell) on drums. Their gigs were world-renowned for their complete insanity with the crowd often spending more time on stage than the band.
9. Aquazul - "Slippy Fingers"
We have no idea who these guys are but the track is killer, it was a b-side that used to be played at Belgica.
10. Roland McBeth - "Don't Wait Up For Me"
Roland is a blues legend who had recently replaced his drummer by a synthesizer after said drummer failed to show up for the Belgica soundcheck. The result is a slide guitar classic.
11. Diploma - "Got Any Chris Rea?"
Even though Diploma only released a couple of 12"es, their influence on the Belgica scene was quite big and their tracks were caned by the DJ's. Great lyrics. Apparently they were shit live though.
12. They Live - "The Cookie Crumbles"
Psychobilly madness by some legendary players of the scene. They had bigger quiffs than riffs (their fashion sense had proven a big influence on the New Beat scene many years prior to this) but they made some important records over the years, one of which is this song.
13. Danyel Galaxy - "Cybernetic Permutations In The Key Of A"
A true cosmic wizard, the local Tim Blake if you will. For his sole (daytime) concert at Belgica, they had to close the club the night before just so he could sound check every single machine. This piece was also used years later on national TV as the intro for a science programme.
14. The Shitz - "Sell It With Your Face"
A track off one of their earlier albums, when they were still finding their voice. Great guitar solo by Davy Coppens though.
15. Robert Vanderwiel - "Nine Thousand Eyes"
Robert went to college with one of the brothers who ran Belgica and was therefore played quite often, especially at the beginning of the night. He also taught Calligraphy and was one of the first in Belgium to run a quite active MySpace page.
16. Noah's Dark – "Inward"
This piece of music was a typical 8am Belgica track, the climax for those who were still in the club and on ketamine. Apocalyptic yet danceable.
The Belgica soundtrack is out on February 26 via Play It Again Sam
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Jemayel Khawaja is THUMP's Editor-at-Large - @JemayelK