Tag: Crammed Discs Records

Founded by Crammed Discs label head Marc Hollander, the Belgian experimental act Akask Maboul can trace its origins to when Hollander was commissioned by producer Marc Moulin to write and and record an album for Moulin’s short-lived label Kamikaze Records. Hollander (keys. reeds, percussion) recruited his friend Vincent Kenis (guitar. bass, keys) to join the project, and the duo went on to write and record their full-length debut, 1977’s Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine, which featured guest spots by Chris Joris (percussion, keys) Catherine Jauniaux (vocals) and a list of others. The band’s sophomore album Un peu de l’âme des bandits was released in 1980. Both albums firmly established the act’s sound — a genre-defying primarily instrumental-based sound that playfully shuffled between experimental jazz, pop, electronic music, and contemporary classical music.

Shortly after the release of 1980’s Un peu de l’âme des bandits, Hollander devoted himself to his label Crammed Discs. And since the label’s formation, the label has released over 350 albums from an eclectic array of forward-thinking artists including TuxedomoonAcid Arab, Konono Nº1, Carl Craig, Yasmine Hamdan and JOVM mainstay Juana Molina among others. Interestingly, in 2014 Hollander returned to writing and performing when his label released the lost, third Akask Maboul album Ex-Futur Album, which was written and recorded with Véronique Vincent between 1980-1983 and left unfinished.

Encouraged by the response to Ex-Futur Album, Hollander revived the band with a new lineup that featured Véronique Vincent (vocals), Faustine Hollander (guitar, bass, vocals), and Amatorski’s Sebastiaan Van den Branden (guitar, bass, synth) and Christophe Claeys (drums percussion) — and in early 2015, the band began playing their first live shows in over 30 years. Adding to the growing interest in the band, an album full of re-interpretations, covers and reworks of the Ex-Futur Album16 Visions of Ex-Futur was released the following year with contributions by Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Aquaserge, Laetitia Sadier, Forever Pavot, Flavien Berger, Nite Jewel, Bullion, Burnt Friedman, Hello Skinny, Marc Collin, Bérangère Maximin, Lena Willikens and others, as well as two “self-covers” recorded by that year’s Akask Maboul lineup. They also created a live up show, Akask Maboul Revue in which they were joined by Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Laetitia Sadier and members of Aquaserge. Additionally, vinyl re-issues of the band’s first two albums helped to confirm that they were avant-garde classics.

At the end of 2018, the Belgian avant-garde act announced that they were working on a new album. Late last year, they announced that the new album, Figures would be a double album. Slated for a May 22, 2020 release through Crammed Discs, the album will feature the band’s current lineup — Hollander (keys), Vincent (vocals), Faustine Hollander (bass, production), Lucien Fraipont (guitar) and Erik Heestermans (drums) and guest spots by Fred Frith and Aquaserge’s Julien Gascon, Audrey Ginestet and Benjamin Gilbert, former Akask Maboul members Michel Berckmans and Sebastiaan Van den Branden, and a list of others.

Written by the band’s writing duo of Hollander and Vincent, the album consists of 22 tracks and interludes, which results from the flow of creative ideas after a lengthy hiatus, and the material sees the band drawing from the same influences that inspired their earliest releases — electronic music, pop, experimental jazz, minimalism and contemporary classical among others — while continuing their long-held reputation for an indefinable, genre-mashing sound. As a whole, the album’s material finds the band seamlessly weaving electronic and acoustic instrumentation, programming, beats, found sounds and sound collages to create a labyrinthine sound, full of twists, turns, secret passages and interconnections that requires deep and attentive listening.

Figures‘ second and latest single “Silent Silhouettes” is a mostly-instrumental track with a tango-like tempo, centered around shimmering keys, atmospheric electronics, a sinuous and strutting bass line and brief vocal passages spoken in a sultry and smoky French before a wobbling fade out. The end result is a track that’s mischievously anachronistic yet cinematic.

 

New Video: Juana Molina Releases a Vibrantly Colored Animated Visual for Exuberant and Playful “Paraguaya Punk”

Over the past few years, I’ve written a bit about the  Buenos Aires-born and based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and actress Juana Molina. Born to renowned tango vocalist Horacio Molina and actress Chunchuna Villafane, a young Juana Molina grew up in an intensely musical home: her father taught her guitar when she was 5 and her mother introduced Molina to the family’s extensive record collection. As a result of 1976’s military coup, the Molina family fled Argentina and lived in exile in Paris for several years, and during that time, the teenaged Molina’s musical tastes were vastly expanded by regularly listening to a number of French radio stations known for programs that spun music from all over the globe. 

When Molina was in her early 20s, her and her family returned to Argentina. As a young woman, Molina was determined to be independent and pursue a musical career – and like many young people, her initial aspirations were to earn some decent money for a few hours of work a day while having enough time to write songs, record and play live shows. She had a talent for imitations and looking for a decent gig, she auditioned for a local TV program. Based on the strength of her impressions and imitations, she got hired on the spot. 

Molina quickly became one of her country’s most popular and beloved comedic actors. Within three years of that initial addition, Molina starred in her own show Juana y sus hermanas, a Carol Burnett-like show in which she had created a number of characters. The syndicated show was wildly popular in Argentina and in its neighboring countries. After about four years on the air, Molina became pregnant and the show went on hiatus. On maternity leave with a lot of free time on her hands, Molina found herself reflecting on her rapid rise to stardom. At the time, despite having a wildly popular TV show, she couldn’t help but think “this isn’t quite what I wanted to do.” So Molina quit acting to focus on her lifelong passion — being a musician. 

Her decision to quit her popular show was one that many Argentines bitterly held against for a number of years. Her full-length debut, 1996’s Rara was critically panned by journalists, who resented her career change. Fans of her TV show would show up to her live shows, expecting to see her pay homage to her TV work but instead they found they couldn’t understand this new “folk singer character” that sung strange songs without any obvious jokes. Feeling dejected by the criticism and feeling misunderstood but wanting to continue onward with music, the Buenos Aires-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist. producer and actress relocated Los Angeles, where her work as much better received and began familiarizing herself with and experimenting with electronics.  

After spending time licking her metaphorical wounds and honing her songwriting and sound, Molina returned to Buenos Aries, where she wrote, recorded and produced her sophomore effort Segundo, which began a run of material that found her meshing organic arrangements with electronic production — typically layered and sampled loops of acoustic sounds with beats and synths. Interestingly, Molina’s third album, the breakthrough Tres Cosas was championed by David Byrne, Will Oldham, and others and landed on The New York Times’ Top Ten Records list. 

Halo Molina’s seventh album further cemented the Argentine artist’s long-held reparation for being a restless and mysterious master of sophisticated, experimental pop  — but her soon to be released 4 song Forfun EP is a decided and exuberant sonic left turn. Derived from a set in which Molina and her band had to improvise, when they found themselves on the stage of a major festival without all of their instruments, the material is imbued with a DIY ethos and spirit that’s indebted to punk rock and garage rock. Interestingly,  the EP’s latest single “Paraguaya Punk” reveals the underpinning fierce playfulness and grit of Molina’s work in a stripped down and forceful fashion. 

The Forfun EP is slated for release on Friday through Crammed Discs.

The recently released video for “Paraguaya Punk” features the animated and vibrantly colored, child-like line drawings of Dante Zaballa. It’s a seemingly simplistic explosion of colors and lines but it manages to capture the exuberant and mischievous air of the accompanying song.