Trailing off Ghent’s Vrijdagmarkt is a small street providing shelter to Consouling Store, a record store that doubles as a safe haven for labels Consouling Sounds and 9000 Records, as well as Consouling Agency. Initiators and inspirers of this project are Mike Keirsbilck and Nele Buys.
Mike Keirsbilck: “It grew organically. The agency came first and serves as a supporting platform for bands who want to release their own music. That way we can lend a helping hand to bands who are working hard, but aren’t ready for a label yet, or just prefer to work without one.”
And then the store happened. Not out of the need to start a record shop, but to be a creative hub in the city.
“The store came about once I decided to concentrate on the label for the full 100%. We were looking for a space where we could meet people or co-work. Where we could have a cup of coffee and people could put in orders. We’ve broadened the scope even further to reach a larger audience, and that’s how the store came to be. Not out of the need to start a record shop, but to be a creative hub in the city.”
Keirsbilck: “With the Consouling Sounds label, in the beginning, our mission was to work on postmusic and to offer a platform to Belgian bands within an international context, as well as the other way around. Meanwhile, we’ve altered the focus, enlarging it to dark music that’s challenging and has a tendency to break down the borders between genres. The mission is still the same, though: to form a community of aficionados on the one hand and great acts on the other.”
Mass II was my introduction to Amenra. It had an enormous impact on me.
Consouling Sounds’ first releases were Exxasens – Polaris and Nadja - The Bungled & The Botched. Mike and Nele are very grateful to all the bands who have put their trust in them. The list of remarkable records is long, yet Amenra – Mass II is the one that catches your attention. Keirsbilck: “Mass II was my introduction to Amenra. The band has been a defining force in the musical choices I’ve made. To have been able to work with them for the first time will always remain a magical moment.”
For me, personally, it was a moment where music, art and design found a perfect balance.
When asked which of Consouling Sounds’ sleeves Mike likes best, he says: “Tough call. Aesthetics are of enormous importance to us. We aim to reach people who collect physical objects. That’s why we still find the aesthetics and the feel of an album so important. If I had to choose one, it would have to be the Amenra and Madensuyu split. We were allowed to use artwork by Berlinde De Bruyckere for that release, while We Became Aware took care of the design. For me, personally, it was a moment where music, art and design found a perfect balance. That has become a new goal for us, one we’d like to make many sequels for.”
And then there was 9000 Records. Keirsbilck: “When opening the store in the heart of Ghent, we came in contact with a bunch of exciting new artists and bands. They were often looking for a channel to get their music out there, but most of the time their style didn’t suit the Consouling Sounds aesthetics. So we started to get itchy to found a new label, a means to start working with these bands.”
Keirsbilck: “The mission is similar to the one we have with Consouling Sounds: to offer an international platform to bands we really believe in. Here, as with Consouling, the focus is on adventurous music that doesn’t play by any genre’s rules. Anything is possible, as long as it’s enough of a challenge. The one restriction we do have, is that the band needs to be from Ghent. 9000 Records (Ghent’s postal code) is a Ghent label for Ghent music.”
“The first release was Nordmann’s Alarm! It was the main reason to start up 9000 Records. Nele and I were both wildly enthusiastic about the band, but it just didn’t fit the Consouling Sounds picture. It’s perfect for 9000 Records, though.”
Out of the stash of 9000 Records releases, Keirsbilck chooses Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat as a favourite: “It’s something special to work with someone you’ve admired for years. So for personal reasons, I’ll choose the both of the KTAOABC vinyl releases.”
However, picking the prettiest sleeve from the same pile, is impossible to Keirsbilck. “There are two who really jump out to me, though. The first one is People, When You See The Smoke… by The Black Heart Rebellion. The sleeve is a story in itself. This one was beautifully designed by Valentijn Goethals and Tomas Lootens (We Became Aware). A real pearl of a design. The second is The Killing Horizon by The Portables, by Stijn Anseel. It’s an audacious and very showy design, but it sticks. The look closely matches the sound, too: psychedelic and slightly crazy, but actually, it just works.”
2017 looks like another promising year. Keirsbilck: “We consciously stick to a rather timid frequency in releases with 9000 Records. So don’t go and expect a major amount of albums pouring out. We’ve selected a couple of very fine projects which we’ll be buckling down to. One will even be a coproduction with another respected and treasured Belgian label.”
At Consouling Sounds, the cock will crow this year. “We’re starting with a subscription formula. So people who don’t want to miss out on a single thing can sign up for our Year of the Rooster subscription series before February 10th.”
Keirsbilck: “We’ve got some plans for Record Store Day as well. But they’re still a secret, for now. So I’d say, keep your eyes peeled!”