Artwork: Peter Maxted
Welcome to Belgium: The birthplace of D&B dons such as Netsky and Alix Perez, home of legendary raves such as Rampage and Starwarz, a country that has always had strong D&B roots…
And its future is looking even stronger as a whole new generation of acts are emerging, running their own nights and labels, carving their own unique sounds and making a dent on dancefloors the world over. From the dank dubby spaciousness of The Untouchables to the jittering energetic drama of James Marvel via the Headz-endorsed growlers from Phase, Belgium’s never had so many exciting next-gen drum & bass acts.
“It’s not something that’s happened over night,” state the guys behind UK imprint Lifestyle Music. The should know. They’ve just released an album bulging at the seams with Belgian D&B talent. Entitled Belgian Connection, it features 17 of the country’s most promising D&B acts.
“We’ve been a fan of the music being made in Belgium for some time. Producers like James Marvel, M-zine & Scepticz, Bredren, The Untouchables, Phase and Mtwn have been steadily working away. You’ve got a whole host of different events, including the incredible Rampage, and a lot of producers stepping up, which is all quite impressive for such a small country! Belgium’s rise as a drum and bass power house probably has something to do with its geographical location as well. It’s very easy for us Brits to get there, then it’s almost dead in the centre between some pretty major countries and cities, hence why it’s also been quite a battlefield throughout history.”
Musically the country is far from a battleground. While its talented exponents are heralding styles across the board from jump up to tech to liquid via halftime, the sound seeping out from cities such as Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp is a healthy reflection of what’s happening in drum & bass globally.
“In terms of a Belgian sound, at least on this album, it really showcases just how diverse the country is,” Lifestyle state. “We didn’t want to hold anyone back or pigeon hole it, and that really comes across as this is an all round drum and bass album with a little bit of something for everyone… I also think it’s been quite poignant to have done this release with Belgium, considering what’s been happening between our nations in the world as of late * coughcoughbrexitcough * Who says our countries can’t work together eh?”
An album loaded with exciting new-gen talent, forward-thinking sounds and a cheeky political one finger salute in the process. This is what D&B is all about. This is what Belgium is all about. Following their successful series launch Australian Connection, this is what Lifestyle Music is all about.
Get acquainted with all the Belgian artists on the album (plus Phase and The Untouchables as they’re far too good to miss out in this extensive Belgian D&B rollcall) if you’re not already aware of them….
We already told you about Bredren earlier this year. Comprising three mates Sebastien, Dieter and Adrien, they’re Brussels-based and joined forces seven years ago after meeting at a local DJ-contest. Over the years they’ve honed a distinctive minimal sound that’s been supported by the likes of Skeptical, Noisia, Perez and S.P.Y. Right now we’re in the thick of their busiest year to date as they’ve dropped significant weight on the likes of Dispatch, Demand and Flexout and we’re not even half way through the year yet. If you’re ever in Brussels try to make sure it’s the same time they’ve hosting a Bredren Invites party. Past guests have included S.P.Y, Philth and Ulterior Motive (to name a few) and the events are gaining quite the reputation.
Look out for: new bits on Lifestyle and plenty more we’re not classified to reveal quite yet!
Meet Lenn (Cedex) and Jef (Higher Underground), two vital characters in Belgium’s drum & bass scene as they’re behind STEAM. A bi-weekly gathering in Ghent, it’s one of Belgian’s most consistent and longest-running underground club events that attracts artists from across the D&B spectrum. DJs first and foremost – with past bookings ranging from Outlook festival to Radikal Styles in Bogota Columbia – they’ve only just begun to establish themselves as producers but if The Alarm (on the Lifestyle Belgian Connection album) and Cancan (above) are anything to go by, they’re worth keeping on the radar. Outside of DJing and producing Lenn works with James Marvel on Space Pirate Recordings and Jef runs a Mexican Mezcal Pop Up Bar. Tasty.
Look out for: A two track EP on Space Pirate, a remix on Soul Lab and another free download on Soundcloud very soon.
Halftime-hurling, beat-minded Antwerp fusionist Corrupted has cooked up all shades of fire over the last few years on the likes of Halogen, Flexout and Lifestyle. He’s remixed Noisia-signed Sofie Letitre, collaborated with Lakeway and is working on a piece for a museum!
Right now he’s building a live A/V show called Delusion as a graduation assignment where he designs both visuals and music. He’s also almost two metres tall and has asked for promoters to make DJ booths higher in future to accommodate giants like him.
Look out for: An EP on Halogen Music and a tune on Space Pirate recordings.
Say hello to Daniel Gergel. He’s 21, he’s Belgian and his Danger tracks live up to their name. Over the last four years he’s developed quite the reputation in his country’s strong jump-up scene with releases on the likes of G13, Smokin’ Riddims and CRE8DNB. Listen to Badman on the Belgian Connection album and you’ll know that he’s not rigidly stuck in one particular style and covers the board with knowledge and authenticity that belies his young age. Currently working on a new liquid alias Vision and a collab with unavoidable Dutch soul men NCT, his sound is developing and broadening with every release.
Look out for: A new EP on Blackley’s CRE8DNB in June and more Danger & Friends events in his hometown Ostend. The next one will be in October with the UK jump up dons at G13.
Digid’s been around for more than a hot minute. Best found flexing between warm dubby rootsical vibes and jungle hybrids. Working with a whole host of super respected labels such as DUPLOC, Diffrent, Halogen, WhoDemSound and plenty more. For a good spectrum slice of his sounds check the likes of the ravishing jungle shock-out Gun Talk and the sludgy halftime Space Rabbit or the stone cold system melter War. Joining the dots from the roots up, Digid’s got a serious sound locked down. He also plans on riding his bike to work more often in the future.
Look out for: A remix on Lion Charge Records, releases on Moonshine and Cubiculo with Dubbing Sun and future dispatches on the likes of Green King Cuts, Diffrent and Sweetbox.
Seriously insidious sounds are emanated from young Oostender Empire’s studio right now. In the past he’s released on Wobble Infection, Mental Disorder and Heavy Duty. Earlier this year he dropped a fat stack of freebies on his Soundcloud and he’s currently working on a setting up a new event called Sound Of The Empire and a UKG alias called Mick & Rorty. Bluj, on the Belgian Connection album, is his Lifestyle debut and he wants you to know that it’s pronounced ‘bludge’ – meaning to avoid work or responsibility. Ironically Empire is hard at work and will be heading to Ibiza again this summer for another series of NeuCode D&B events.
Look out for: A remix on Soul Lab and plenty more to follow….
On the Belgium Drum & Bass scene since 2009, always on fire in 2018; Glyph (AKA Owl & Clearlight) are veritable veterans of their country’s D&B movement. Honing a distinctly dank, foreboding funk, all stripped-back and sewer-bound, paranoia seeps off every cut they’ve blessed us with. Notable releases of late include their Gremlinz collab Evolution on Absys, their obese kickdrum pressure on Waltz On The Moon (via Proximity) and the rolling growls of Megalodonist on Lifestyle’s Belgian Connection album.
Look out for: A remix forthcoming on Counterpoint Records and plenty more to follow…
A name familiar to all through his heavyweight work on Audioporn and Drum&BassArena, James Marvel has been nominated in the Drum&BassArena Awards on multiple occasions. This year he’s levelled up to launch his own label Space Pirates which launched at Rampage earlier this year and has so far released a string of bangers from Marvel himself and a brutal electro/rock/D&B hybrid by newcomer ABIS and is set to drop plenty more from fellow Belgians such as Phase, Corrupted, Solace, D-Convict and more. Beyond Space Pirates Marvel has also teamed up with Belgian D&B bossman Murdock and Doctrine for The Riddler which is out now Rampage Recordings.
Look out for: Bun Bun, a new track about a dear love he thought was the one… But wasn’t. Coming soon on Space Pirate.
Bruges-based Larigold describes himself as “just a regular dude with a passion for music”. A much more succinct and accurate description would be a ‘talented soul man’ or perhaps ‘spell-binding liquid wizard’ however you want to address him, the outcome remains the same: glistening, restrained deepness on the likes of Radar, Celsius and Liquid Flavours. His Larinade mixes on Soundcloud are also highly recommended.
Look out for: new vibes on the likes of KOS.MOS MUSIC, Innerground’s new sublabel RSTLSSNSS and more materials on Radar.
Lavance has been bubbling away for several years now on the likes of Celsius, Skankandbass, Limitless and Fragmented Audio. With a slippery machine funk style that lends itself just as well to halftime as it does dark tech funk, it’s no surprise that he’s been supported by the likes Noisia, S.P.Y, Signal and Andy C. He also runs a fine line in dope downloads on his Soundcloud and promises a whole stack more releases when he completes his studies.
Look out for: EPs on Lifestyle Music and Context Audio, a single on Counterpoint Recordings and a track on a Fragmented Recordings compilation.
M-Soul & S27 are both 27 years of age, they were born and raised in Sint-Niklaas and they love their drum and bass minimal and deep. You probably know this already, though. In the last 12 months they’ve delivered some straight up damagers on the likes of Vandal and Flexout. Prior to that they’ve featured on the likes of Proximity, Blendits, Halogen and Surfase. With clear dubby roots and occasional ventures towards the soulful and mellow, they’ve been repping the deeper side of Belgian D&B for almost eight years. They also love watching sports, apparently. Premier League and the NBA, especially.
Look out for: A 4 track EP for Vandal Records, which is nearly finished, and a single in the works for Nurtured Beatz, featuring another collab with SVB.
Destination Liege, home of brothers Max & Dim AKA Mtwn. They’ve been cooking up deep sounds since the early 2010s on labels such as Diffrent and Halogen but took a break from releases to focus on their sound. Slowly returning with a much broader canvas of sounds and styles ranging across the flavours and tempos, Mtwn are on the precipice of an exciting new chapter.
Look out for: A whole stack of newness on a variety of labels as soon as they can reveal them…
With an ever-growing string of releases on the likes of Dispatch, Critical, Warm Communications and 31, M-zine & Scepticz need very little introduction. Hells, their heavyweight rolling vibe is so strong they’ve even been supported by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on his weekly Spotify playlist. Aside from the music, the Brussels duo have a fondness for cats (and own at least three between them) and have built their own studio with a promise that the best is yet to come…
Look out for: Three major vinyl releases confirmed to come out on a yet-to-be-revealed label over the course of this year. Considering the level of labels they usually operate with, these are likely to be substantial releases. Watch this space…
Sounds like a duo, actually just one chap. Nexus & Tight is Tim Cox and he’s been producing from his HQ in Paal for seven years. Flexing a bright, breezy rolling soul sound that’s always evolving, Tim’s music has found homes in all the right places: Liquicity, Soulvent, Radar and of course Lifestyle. A regular DJ at both Rampage and Liquicity events, his skills have found the right homes too.
Look out for: Future releases on Radar and a new collaboration with long-time studio sparring partner Skylark.
The only artist in this list to not feature on Lifestyle’s Belgian Connection album, Phase’s stake-raising activity this year demands he needs a shout out anyway. This year alone Phase has slapped us silly with key dispatches on Metalheadz, Vandal and Future Retro and has plenty more in store in the coming months. Often spotted sparring with Villem, his sound is at once classically rooted and vitally forward-focused. And he’s only just warming up. The next phase starts here…
Look out for: Future releases on CIA and Metalheadz, including a remix of the CEO himself Goldie.
Solace is Ghent-based David, a 23 year old DJ who’s been active in Belgium for several years as part of the STEAM party concept but broke through internationally after winning a DJ competition to play at Sun And Bass. Production wise he reckons he’s still finding his sound so refused to rush out the tracks right now. However he can be spotted behind all master engineering at Ronin Audio and has dropped some seriously slithering sub snakes like Forbidden Affection and the graveyard stampede Absolute on Terabyte Records.
Look out for: Music on a forthcoming VA album on Space Pirates and more to follow (once more once he’s found his sound and wants you to hear it)
SVB is Stijn, a 28 year old producer with a penchant for the dark and steppy soundscapes and a fat discography that boasts releases on Flexout Audio, Structured Music, Halogen Music, IM:LTD and plenty more. With his own series of parties SVB Invites, he’s behind the official Belgian Connection launch event in Antwerp and can be spotted at some of Belgium’s most notable events this summer including the Star Warz stage at EDM behemoth Tomorrowland. Big.
Look out for: A new collab with mates M-Soul & S27 on Nurtured Beatz Recordings… And plenty more to follow.
Lurking in the dubspace shadows of Brussels, The Untouchables have been seeping dark noxious fusions for 10 years on labels such as Tribe12 and Alphacut before signing to Samurai in 2016. Since then the husband and wife duo have been deep in studio hibernation working on their debut album Mutations. Tense, foreboding and elephantine in weight and presence, The Untouchables have been at very forefront of Belgium’s darker, techno inspired sound for a very long time.
Look out for: Their beastly album Mutations on Samurai. Out June 8.
Time for a little equilateral thinking…. Triangle might only be 21 but he’s been bubbling away for several years on labels such as Soul Deep Recordings, Soul Lab and Faceless Audio with support from the likes of Noisia, Upgrade, Scott Allen, Klinical and Objectiv. He’s not averse to the odd cheeky bootleg (check this bright and breezy remix of Peter, Bjorn & John’s Young Folks for example) and his sound resonates with a strong sense of immersivity. Isoscelesy does it!
Look out for: Plenty of things in the future that he’s not at liberty to reveal quite yet.
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