A while ago I wrote a post about the music scene in Ghent for Incubate Scene Report. During the writing of this article I had to leave out so many great bands and musicians, because they weren’t from Ghent and we didn’t want to lose the purpose of the Scene Reports. That’s why we started the Antwerp Scene Report. With this one we hope to set the record straight and cover more of the musical madness in Belgium!
Let’s start off with Antwerp’s venues. There are several places where you can come to enjoy music.
Scheld’Apen is a music venue for alternative and progressive music. Besides their music programming they have a diner and several art workshops. Another venue is Trix. This music centre has a more regular programming, with music from all genres in more of a mid-segment. Trix also has some workshops available, mostly aimed on musicians.
Kavka is a youth centre that organizes concerts, dance workshops, and has a bio-garden and rehearsal spaces for musicians.
Gunther is a projectspace by two artists who operate in Antwerp’s underground scene. It’s an art gallery connected to the label Ultra Eczema (more on that later on) and they host musical events with mostly experimental artists. To get a good idea of the sounds you can expect at this place you can read about the Ultra Eczema label.
You can also drink some beer in Bar Nadar or Café Zeezicht, and simultaneously enjoy a concert, although it seems to get harder and harder for bars to have live music. Recently Donder Bar got a restriction to have live music, so now they organize concerts on various locations. There are also several places located in Borgerhout a suburb of Antwerp. Here you find Bar Leon with live gigs, DJ’s a barber on Mondays or Art Centre Rataplan, which focuses on theatre, comedy, music and workshops.
If you are more in for some clubbing you can go to Petrol Club who host dance events like 10 Days Off and Urban dance parties. But it’s not only dance and DJ’s; they also have the occasional live shows in their premises.
Just as Ghent, Antwerp seems to have a very lively underground scene. Besides all the bands and artists (we will come to that later) there is a large group of labels, bookers, etc. who specialize in experimental, weird and innovative music.
One example is Conspiracy Records, which is not only a label, but also a booking agency and distributor for a large selection of bands and artists, ranging from avant-garde to doom and everything else you can think of.
Ultra Eczema is a small DIY label that releases small amounts of records, booklets, magazines and other weird stuff. The musical releases include crazed out electronics, noise, synth-pop, avant-garde and more.
As for artists, Antwerp seems to have a large collection of the weird, beautiful, strange, exciting, relaxing.
I will start with Antwerp’s exciting underground scene. One of the names I have come across a lot recently is Mittland och Leo, a duo that crafts instrumental and hypnotizing synthpop. They layer dreamy keys over echoed drones and simple drum sounds, creating a dreamlike sound, which makes you feel like your head is stuck in a cloud.
Another keyboard enthusiast is Miaux a one-girl act that will play Incubate this year with her unique compositions. And she provides you the perfect music for reading trough the next part of this guide.
Dynoo produces futuristic, minimalistic electronic music that kind of sways and flutters in different directions, sometimes it’s danceable and sometimes it sides more on the ambient side.
Dolphins Into The Future is an avant-garde soundscaper, who produces his very own blend of contemporary ambient.
And let’s not forget Shadows on the Moon who has a more up-tempo electronicambient sound.
Stacks is a project by one of the members of the now defunct band: White Circle Crime Club. It’s a mix of ‘80’s pop and modern synthpop, blending into an incredibly catchy and intriguing whole. I recommend you download his debut album ‘Voices’ on his Bandcamp page (it’s free). Hailing from the same defunct band is Jan Matthé who releases music on his own label called Für Dich Verlag. His own music can be labeled as bedroom-pop: Melancholic and simple songs which he himself calls music for children.
N!euwe Supersolden is an improv bigband, doing live sessions with 2 drummers, 3 guitars, bas, keys and electronics they create psyschedelic drones, kraut rhythms and psychedelic improv. Hailing from their camp is Hare Akedod both an artist and a record label. Releasing limited edition cassettes with psyschedelic, improv music. Both by himself under the monikers Hare Akedod and Ark Tablet but he also released a tape with various artists. Hare Akedod will also perform at Incubate this year.
Another act affiliated with N!euwe Supersolden is Codasync which is more in the direction of math and progrock, although it’s hard to put a name on it. This instrumental quartet played Incubate in 2011.
Another act from this group of musicians is True Champions Ride on Speed, who also played Incubate in 2011. This instrumental trio crafts complex guitar structures and combines it with a dose of metal, jazz and mathrock.
Orphan Fairytale seems to be the princess of the underground in Antwerp. With no online releases, music or info, the only thing I know is that she makes lo-fi experimental music with the use of a cheap Casio and some other electronics.
Another freaked out musician is W. Ravenveer with his dark, ambient cut-and-paste electronics.
Remörk138 is a sonic-adventurer, creating deep, dark drones with some dabs of noise and psychedelics.
DSRlines creates experimental drones, and calls himself an audiological explorer, which sounds about right. With subtle bleeps, buzzes and squeaks the songs expore their very own sonic spectrum.
Vom Grill is a project by Dennis Tyfus, who is also the founder of Ultra Eczema (mentioned before in the Labels part). A crappy sounding 606-drum machine and simple, repetitive shouts create its minimalistic sound.
There is also a certain scene surrounding the band dEUS, since they are better known I won’t waste too much time on them. Possessed Factory is a project by band-member Mauro Pawlowski in which he creates weird and haunting electronics. Mauro also plays some solo-acoustic stuff and in other projects. Some defunct and some still alive, but his main project nowadays is dEUS.
Flying Horseman is the band surrounding singer-songwriter Bert Dockx. They make dark, brooding post-folk that keeps expanding throughout the song.
Bert Dockx also plays in Dans Dans in which the three bandmembers craft an eclectic mix of jazz, rock and psychedelic blues.
Blackie & The Oohoos is a band fronted by two sisters. These ladies make mysterious sounding music. Eclectic pop music with a dash of folk and topped with some beautiful harmonies.
Balbaard is an alternative folk/pop act. They create beautiful atmospheric songs with some weird elements, which make it sound like the ideal soundtrack to a dark fairytale.
You Raskal You are an indie-folk band who recently released a beautiful album under the name ‘Reverb Kisses’. The cinematic songs are perfectly laidback and make you drift away for a moment.
Creature With The Atom Brain is a psychedelic-rock band that blends reggae, dub, krautrock and noise into an intriguing mixture.
Crimes are a garage-punk duo, with some small blues influences.
Another interesting band from Antwerp is The Hickey Underworld. Although these guys are hard to categorize, their music could best be described as noisy, melodic rock. Or something like that. It’s infectious, loud and just beams a certain confidence. Definitely one of the more interesting guitar bands to come from Antwerp!
I Love Sarah is a progressive-rock band with influences of electronic, pop and noise. The music is entirely instrumental, but manages to keep a good dynamic throughout their songs.
Grown Below takes a different direction with their down-tempo postcore, adding some influences from metal to make it a haunting experience.
Tangled Horns are a heavy-blues band with some hints of stoner and rock.
Also take a listen to the freaky tunes from The Joyous Cosmology
But it’s not all underground, weird or loud music in Antwerp, there is also some great pop music. There is the exotic-tinged popsongs from Zita Swoon, or the softrock from Marble Sounds.
The Valerie Solanas croon their way through their selection of psychedelic blues, jazz and bebop.
Dóttir Slonza is the brainchild of Izja Rutten. She created some great polyphonic folk-pop songs, influenced by the sights of Norwegian Fjords.
And then there is also the indierockers Bedrugs.
I hope to have covered enough of Antwerp’s musical spectrum with this one article, but I am afraid that it’s not possible to do this. If you have any suggestions or additions if it comes to Antwerp’s music scene you can post them in the comments below.