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 Tuxedomoon, Acid 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 Album, 16 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.