Red Bull

Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

A musical guide on the path of enlightenment

Actually, this record sounds better than the original.

Interview Diederik Decroix
Photographs Anne Hoyoux

Many a vinyl collector or music lover will drool upon hearing this cheerful bit of news: cult record Planètes by Jean Hoyoux will be rereleased this month, as a double LP reissue from the original 1982 master tapes.

A year ago, Philippe Cortens embarked on this adventure. It is not without pride he now presents his first release on his shiny new label Cortizona. The original will cost you an arm and a leg on Discogs, but Cortens is in it for the music: he just wants the tracks on this fine record to be heard once again.

In a previous life, Philippe used to roam the hallways of radio stations Studio Brussel and Klara. He’s been enamoured with Jean Hoyoux’s Planètes for light years. Cortens: “It sounds out of date and yet again, somehow, it doesn’t. It’s a great album. Surreal, witty and therefore very Belgian-sounding. It’s ambient proto-krautrock with a very distinct sound. Very cinematic at times, but danceable all the same. Hoyoux was a pioneer in Belgium where the use of synthesizers is concerned. He had enjoyed a classical education and you can tell when listening to his compositions.”

Hoyoux a very distinct sound. Very cinematic at times, but danceable all the same.

Jean Hoyoux Planètes Mix

The record was released in 1981. No one remembers how many were pressed. Discogs claims 99 records were made, but that’s rough guesswork. The number might have been higher, if you count a reprint. It’s not the only mystery though: Hoyoux himself was quite the character. Had he been alive today, his LinkedIn profile would have him on record as Psychologist, Astrologer, Musician and Co-founder of l'Institut National d'Anthropocosmologie. A bit of a mouthful.

Hoyoux used his own name to release Planètes and a second record titled Hymne. Few are aware that the man used an alias and recorded another LP and three singles as Jean Le Fennec, all of which are very much in demand on Discogs.

Planètes was released by Hoyoux himself — quite a feat, back then. His label was called CRETS, short for Centre de Recherches et d'Etudes en Thérapies Sonores. The record was meant as a therapeutic tool used in the treatment of Hoyoux’s patients. Legend has it the doctor was highly revered and a great deal of his patients attended his funeral in 1986. Whether the album actually did any curing, hasn’t been reported on.

Hoyoux wasn’t a man who left things to chance. Hence the artwork, which was as premium as the sounds the vinyl bore. He called on his friends René Moutschen and Annie Cosse to draw the cover and the inserts, respectively. He also published a book called Noos, La Naissance à L’esprit (Noos, the birth of the spirit), which is praised as a guidebook leading the way to enlightenment. Clearly a Jack of all trades, this Hoyoux.

Cortens: “We remastered the original master tapes from 1982. We didn’t change a thing though. We merely restored the recording a tad and filtered out the noise. Gert Van Hoof and Pascal Deweze did a marvellous job. Actually, this record sounds better than the original.”

Actually, this record sounds better than the original.

Cortens: “The black and silver sleeve is a reproduction as well. Not a blithe endeavour, either, because of the silver printing. Just like the original, the album is presented as a beautiful gatefold with inserts. Beside the original inserts, we’ve added a new one containing liner notes by Edward Ka-Spel (The Legendary Pink Dots) and John Insane Olson (Wolf Eyes). Just like the title and the tracks, the original inserts referred to the seven planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Moon, Venus, Mercury and the Sun. Jef Cuypers did the layout of this reissue.”

Cortens doesn’t want to spill many secrets about upcoming releases on Cortizona. First, he needs to clear tracks and get the vinyl pressing factories to follow. But he will admit that his eye is on the Jean Le Fennec recordings as well as Hymne. Not the worst of ideas, are we right? Cortens: “I don’t want to focus on a specific genre. It just needs to be good. So, basically, it could go anywhere from here. I don’t want to commit to anything. Beside rereleasing old albums, I might as well release a band’s newest tracks.”

The Planètes - Jean Hoyoux release concert is scheduled on February 18 at the Planetarium in Brussels. Belgian analogue synth band Meteor Musik will bring the tracks back to life. The band are self-proclaimed fans of the late Hoyoux and the fact that they prance around in space suits on stage couldn’t have been more fitting. Jaak De Digitale is working on 360° visuals, which will be projected in the planetarium’s dome. Entrance is free, resistance is futile.

Contact Cortizona or your local record store to get a hold of the LP.