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Dance Like It's Ok 3: New Music From Netherlands Belgium & Germany
Theo Ploeg , January 30th, 2014 04:24

This is The Dutch Master Theo Ploeg’s ongoing search for the best new (electronic) music in The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium: to the lowlands and beyond!

Mouse On Mars portrait by Sebastian Szary

2013 was an interesting year for electronic dance music in the region I am covering. The Cologne based record label Kompakt turned 20, film maker Jozef Devillé made an excellent documentary The Sound Of Belgium about new beat (more about that soon) and The Netherlands celebrated 25 years of Dutch dance. Dance is big business. The annual Amsterdam Dance Event is a five day glorification of dance and business. Dutch house is a huge success, thanks to its popularity in the US.

Dutch dance is, of course, more than Afrojack, Tiësto and Armin van Buuren. But, perhaps with the exception of Noisia it lacks more mainstream acts with underground sympathy like Netsky and Paul Kalkbrenner. That doesn't stop Amsterdam based record label Basserk from coining the term Dutch Bass: bass driven music from The Netherlands. Tambutronic from KiT (Kuenta i Tambu)is the first album the label releases under the Dutch Bass moniker. Kuenta i Tambu means stories and drums in Papiamentu, the native language of Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire. The Amsterdam based band makes some damn hot and groovy global bass mixing, elements from traditional Afro Caribbean Music with electronic pop. Just dance your ass off to 'Nightswitch'. More dutch bass here.

Not entirely Dutch or Belgium but just a little bit of both and worth mentioning: FAQ EP by British producer Voyager on record label Tempo from Rotterdam. Being active as a drum & bass producer in the 90s, Pete 'Voyager' Parsons has been more on the background lately, or so it seems. The three tracks on this EP definitely do remind of the stuff he did as Voyager for labels like LTJ Bukem's Goodlooking, DJ Fabio's Creative Source and the Belgium R&S label. His album Future Retro (1997) is a drum & bass classic. While listening to his new EP on Tempo and I can't suppress a nostalgic feeling for the 90s. But hey, that's not a bad thing, is it? 'FAQ' and 'LuvBLoved' are uplifting and deep, 'Big Picture' chilling downtempo. Great release on a great new label.

Heerlen, a small town near to the German border, has one of the healthiest electronic music scenes in The Netherlands. With producers like Raadsel, Luisterwaar, Subp Yao and Kijk Een Ster exploring the limitations of bass music. Kijk Een Ster (Look A Star) released his Night Out EP last december. His first, filled with end 70s and early 80s influenced funk, hip hop and electro. The synths Brendan Gijzen (his real name) uses are fuzzy and warm, making the atmosphere on this EP light and playful. 'Conversations' deviates, being more abstract, dark and filled with 8bit sounds. Sometimes Kijk Een Ster reminds of Bastian, another Dutch producer, from Amsterdam and also active as musical brain behind Dutch hip hop formation De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig (Today's Youth), but Kijk Een Ster is less pop and more electro. Good stuff.

Also from Heerlen: Luisterwaar (stuff to listen to) aka Luc Derks. His new, and third 'album', has been released on Hamburg's Saturate! Records, which is, at the moment, one of the finest bass labels around. Ensample II is part of Luisterwaar's 'ensemble'-project, loose excursions into hip hop-fuelled sounds with a big emphasis on rhythm. Details are always different. In 'A New Active Matrix' he flirts with house and rave, in 'Galactic Structures' with dubby ambient. But in his best moments Luisterwaar is leftfield trap: intelligent and rough.

Belgium label Tangram Records from Leuven celebrated its first birthday last month. With releases by Up High Collective and Moodprint, the label quite an impression. The latest release is a sampler featuring rising Belgium stars Flash Grimey, Up High Collective, Blatan and LTGL. It's a great EP with LTGL being the icing on the cake. The 19-year-old producer from Hasselt won last years Champion Sound Beat Battle in Antwerp and produces some awesome bass and synth driven breaks that reminds of the early stuff by Rustie. Mark my words: 2014 will be a very good year for both LTGL and Trangram Records. Nice detail: the label is running dance night in the eastern part of Belgium (Liège, Hasselt, Leuven) and regularly invites producers from Heerlen, which is only a forty minutes drive from Leuven.

Released half a year ago but still worth mentioning: This Day EP by Pomrad, out on London based label Earnest Endeavours. The producer from Antwerp, real name Adriaan Van De Velde, is often referred to as the Belgium Hudson Mohawke. That's an insult. For Pomrad. His sound is much richer, more subtle and exciting. Better reference? Daedelus, Flying Lotus, Rustie and early Daft Punk hustled together. Best track? the ultra-slick 'Smooth & Slike'. Here's hoping he will release new material soon.

Never seen tQ chief John Doran dance so uncontrollably as to the Mouse On Mars gig at the Melt festival last summer. They are one of the few bands that knows how to make excellent experimental electronic pop music while still ruling the dancefloors. New EP Spezmodia - their first digital only EP, which is released on Monkeytown, the label of Modeselektor - is dance material for sure. The five tracks on this are inspired by early rave, Belgium new beat and early Dutch hardcore (also known as Gabber). Just like the Mouse On Mars' interpretation of dubstep on the WOW EP, released last year, this time the two German producers do a great job in transforming early 90s styles to the typical Mouse On Mars sound. John will love this as much as I do.

Breaking a three-year-silence last summer Jens-Uwe Beyer returned as Popnoname. His first single 'Change' was beautiful and now their are two new albums: 50° and 50° Remixes. Over the last couple of years Beyer has been busy with his experimental label Magazine, as a member of super group Cologne Tape and has made some stunning ambient for the Kompakt. Those haven't influenced the pop sound that Beyer has been cultivating since the 12" release Piece however, his first release as Popnoname on Firm. 50° is techno pop on the edge. Drawing heavily on the British indie sound of The Smiths and Pet Shop Boys Beyer fuels his crispy pop with synth-melodies and repetitive drum-rhythms. To be honest, 50° is more introverted and darker than his first two LPs White Album (2007) and Surrounded By Weather (2008). Making this third more difficult to grasp. Beyer has grown as a songwriter. The slow and moody indie pop of 'Meteor' is his best song to date. Make sure to listen to the Pawas remix too. Beautiful album.