With some 800 vinyl releases during the past year alone (release period from March 1, 2016 until March 3, 2017), 21 jury members took on the daunting task of selecting three Belgian bands and artists in four categories. Meet the Winners of the very first Vinyl Frontier Awards via awards.vinylfrontier.be.
In the Best Album category, the Awards were presented to Calais - Het Zesde Metaal, Fever - TaxiWars and Blackened Cities - Melanie De Biasio.
Calais by Het Zesde Metaal is a record that managed to reach a wider audience without compromising on quality. The record’s more electronic approach resulted in a slightly different sound and initial reception was critical. The album requires repeated listening and was clearly in it for the long haul.
Fever by TaxiWars, on the other hand, is the band everybody expected to show up in this category. In interviews preceding the Awards, jury members Carlo Tune Up Andriani and Michael Focus Knack Ilegems had already outlined the jazz/soul trend that is continuing to make waves. Obviously, TaxiWars is one of the trend’s prime movers.
Containing only one track with a running time of 24’16”, Blackened Cities seems like the odd one out in the top three. It’s a small masterpiece, however, and it clearly charmed more than one jury member. Blackened Cities' cover, a photo by Stephan Vanfleteren, also did very well in the Best Artwork category, where it just fell short of the podium.
Best Debut Album
There’s an embarrassment of riches in this category, too, with many new bands taking up centre stage and producing great records right off the bat.
Case in point: We Fucked A Flame Into Being by Warhaus. Warhaus, the solo debut by Maarten Devoldere (Balthazar) and his muse Sylvie Kreusch (Soldier’s Heart), is just so ingeniously clever.
The next band, on the other hand, did not ring a bell at all. Although paper hats’ four members have been involved with music for years, they have clearly managed to keep out of the limelight until now. PH02 is the result of a long musical journey during which the musicians have been exploring the limits of their instruments and different musical styles. Perfectionists in the truest sense of the word, paper hats pack an emotional punch with their first and only release this far: a 19-minute EP. A fitting choice and an absolute must-see live.
Another impressive live outfit is Brutus. The band have toured for two years, chalking up an astonishing 200 gigs during that period. After three singles and an amazing split release with The GURU GURU the band have now unleashed their first album on the world. Accompanied by a distorted guitar and bass, frontwoman Stefanie Mannaerts plays and sings as if all hell has broken loose. It’s quite hard to believe, in fact, that the female drummer has never had any ambitions to make it as a singer. Brutus are currently one of the louder bands on the scene, their efforts evidently very much appreciated by many members of the jury.
The cult record Planètes - Jean Hoyoux was re-released last year on the spanking new cortizona label. In addition to being a psychologist, Jean Hoyoux was an astrologer and a musician. He made the record as a therapeutic tool for the treatment of his patients. It is to cortizona’s credit that their reissue puts the original front and centre. No expense was spared to faithfully reproduce the 7 original inserts as well as the silver cover.
It may have escaped your attention, but in addition to Love is Okay, the follow-up album Boogie-Children-R-Us by Evil Superstars was also reissued. This little avant la lettre masterpiece by Evil Superstars (Mauro Pawlowski and Tim Vanhamel) still sounds just as rad after all these years, making it a rightful choice.
Another brand-new label has emerged alongside cortizona. Stroom injected new life into composer Alain Pierre’s 1984 soundtrack to Jan Zonder Vrees, the first Flemish animated feature film. To celebrate the reissue, the movie was showcased at the latest edition of Film Fest Gent, with Alain Pierre performing live for the first time in 16 years.
It has been an amazing year for high quality music releases, there can be no doubt about that. Nor did it escape the jury’s attention that many of those great records boasted some magnificent album artwork to boot. In case you still needed convincing, just look at the covers of the winners from the previous categories again. Little gems, one and all.
According to the jury, these three were head and shoulders above the rest:
Rheia - Oathbreaker featuring artwork by Jeroen Mylle (Maanlander), singer Caro Tanghe & WE BECAME AWARE. It tickles the imagination to think that Caro Tanghe had hot wax poured over her in a water tank.
Killing The Horizon - de portables is a design by Stijn Anseel. The Killing Horizon is actually a ‘place’ where space becomes time and time space. The cover reflects the band’s poetic musings on the ‘killing horizon’ concept.
Schaduwland - Jan Swerts with artwork by Stijn Felix rounds off the list. For his striking illustration, Felix referenced zombie movies, songs and Swerts’ experiences in his post-apocalyptic world.