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02/02/2024 : ANTLER RECORDS - Early Years Vol 1

ANTLER RECORDS

Early Years Vol 1

MusicVinyl


[90/100]   
02/02/2024, Kurt INGELS

EN

With a lot of fanfare, but not without reason, the resurrection of the legendary Antler label was announced here a while ago. Antler Records was and is relevant again for all those who enjoy the music that this website holds so dear. The fact that the back catalogue is now seeing the light of day again has everything to do with the rights that could be purchased by Starman Records (Cluster - Park group) from Warner Music, where these beautiful tunes were languishing. It was promptly decided to revive the legendary Antler, the only right decision.

The reissue of the Siglo XX “Double Album” has already taken place, and now the “Antler Records - Early Years Vol 1” is on the nickel plate. The dark days can hardly become more beautiful. The marking Vol 1 obviously means that there will also be a Part 2 (scheduled for March/April 2024) to put these “Early Years” of the Antler label back in the spotlight. Two parts have been announced, but I dare hope that Antler will deliver many more surprises in the coming years.

Now, “Antler Records - Early Years Vol 1” features 12 songs of premature Belgian new wave, post-punk, cold wave, from the absolute early years of the label. These were the years in which punk had liberated young people and encouraged them that anything was possible and allowed, especially making music themselves and getting on stage with it, even if that stage was an (emptied) manure cart in a local barn. Being heard, even in the countryside, that was what mattered. Roland Beelen was quick to give this new, young violence a forum and founded the Kleo label, which would be the seed for Antler Records, formed after a meeting with Maurice Engelen.

This compilation does not select the hits or well-known songs, but rather rare tracks are dug up again, as from the cult collections "No Big Business" (from 1981 and 1983), two parts of which were also published and are a true source of inspiration for connoisseurs and compiler Lieven De Ridder, of Walhalla fame, who was given the honour of designing this collector's vinyl with expert knowledge. The music anyway, the beautiful somewhat retro but still modern-looking green layout, is by Toon Loenders.

About the music now: the compilation opens with cult figures Luc Van Acker and Didi De Paris with their version of the “Lord's Prayer”, followed by the biting “Obsession” from the newly emerging Siglo XX. Punk for dark days, just like “Misery” by Suspects, a post-punk new wave anthem from the fertile Flemish farmland, all taken from the first “Big Business” compilation. Fizik from near Bruges won the 24 hours of Ter Helle in Knesselare in the magical year 1981 and was allowed to record the new wave single “Next To Me” as a reward, somewhere between the volatility of what would later become electro pop and the determination of punk-influenced premature art rock. Neue Sachlickeit is the only formation that gets two songs, the single “Ice / Painless Rage” from 1981, which gives a sound with a somewhat funky approach to the fresh new wave wind of the 80s.

Also, on the B-side, you can hear funk influences with EXQ's from Leuven, which, during its lifetime, even shared the stage with Allez Allez, TC Matic, Arbeid Adelt, Dorau Und Die Marinas, and was especially popular in Sweden. "Obscurity" is, above all, a powerful song that, although made in 1982, does not sound 'demoded' or old-fashioned at all. Although funky, it is also dark and punky, in keeping with the spirit of the times, and still danceable in 2023. The Motives have that same characteristic, spiny rhythm of that time with "Whatever", their 'moment de gloire' on this compilation. The original is on the obscure new wave collector "Fons Vermist In Bergbos" (Kleo 1981). The Singles had Ben Crabbé and a certain Wout Dockx in their ranks; the former would later start 'moaning' and continue to 'moan', while Wout Dockx would appear with groups such as The Neon Judgment and Men 2nd, both of whom are also present on the B-side of this thick vinyl disc. "The Last Dance" from 1982 was effectively the last of four singles containing the song Antler 005, poppy new wave that never really caught on, but did lay the foundation for a nice piece of Belpop history.

I don't need to introduce The Neon Judgment here anymore. Legendary in the scene and with "Sweet Revenge" from 1982, the B-side of their first single "Factory Walk", the sound is set for what would later emerge as the Belgian electro wave sound, a sound created by the Antler label. It would be embraced to write a piece of Belgian alternative music history, still as biting in 2023. Men 2nd also fits into this list, although they never became as popular as their fellow citizens from The Neon Judgment. Their song "The Healer" comes from the "No Big Business 2" collector, a textbook example of how electronics penetrated into music in those years. Their electro wave sound needs to be matured a bit on "The Healer", something they would do quite well, as evidenced by the later albums "Red Tape" (1987) and "The Antibody Songs" (1988), both on Antler. We end on a fine note with "The Nuthouse", also released on "No Big Business 2" (1983 - Anything But Records) by cult formation Soviet War, The Sound, but in Belgian style and with a bit more of a punk mentality. Great song, even 40 years later. Quality is preserved.

This first volume, "Early Years," from the Antler label, once again shows how creative, idiosyncratic, and passionate music was handled at the beginning of the 80s, inspired by the 'do it yourself' mentality of punk. Music was fun, but also a connection—a view of the world and 'the human condition'. Dancing was possible but not necessary. The years were dark, full of threats and the cold war. Music is the translation of a state of mind and an outlet. I would almost think that in 2023, we are unfortunately back to the 80s when I look around me.

This vinyl compilation is a piece of Belgian music history, a reflection of the times, a hint of nostalgia, but also a wake-up call because as the old sang, so do the young ones. Charming, retro, and vintage, containing the seeds of a new modernity. Diverse and layered, yet always captured in the same atmosphere. I know, I am a child of those cold 80s, as I experienced my wonder years there; they were equally magical and decisive. I learned to colour outside the lines, to be critical, and to have an eye and ear, especially for what was on the margins. Those things turned out to be so much more interesting than the regular average crap. This is proven once again with this compilation. Looking back to look ahead can be hopeful and enlightening. Never forget where you came from, thank you Antler. A mandatory purchase for children of the alternative 80s and fans of Belgian alternative music that did not rely on popularity labels but on taste, good taste. Amen. I'm already looking forward to part 2!

Kurt INGELS
02/02/2024


NL

U kan de Nederlanstalige versie van deze review HIER nalezen bij onze collega's van Dark Entries Magazine!

Kurt INGELS
02/02/2024


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