2018 was a damn good year for Belgian music. Ever since we’ve been organising our Sound Of The Belgian Underground festival with Ancienne Belgique back in 2014, we’ve had the feeling that the Belgian scene is becoming more and more relevant within its international context. From promoters like H E 4 R T B R O K E N to labels like VLEK or Stroom to acts like ssaliva and Roméo Elvis; they’re all playing an important role as ambassadors of the Belgian music scene in the rest of the world. That being said, team Subbacultcha made a list of 18 Belgian acts that stole our hearts in 2018. Some stuff you might like, some maybe not, but this is how we feel about 2018.
If you’re from Antwerp and have wandered into the hip-hop and trap scene, you’ve probably heard of Rare Akuma. Locals will just cut to the chase, skip ‘Rare’ and call him ‘Akuma’. A rising star within his own scene and with strong ambitions, Akuma started out when he was 13 editing old-school songs. Years later, Kum-kum is still busy producing and just released his new album Akuma Season, a mix celebrating all kinds of weird genres that aren’t just trap or hip hop.
Benjamin is a young performer, often inspired by opera, who studied performance arts at Toneelacademie Maastricht. He calls himself a narcissist and a wannabe counter-tenor. With a lot of shows to his name, including My Protest, My Inner Songs and Mea Big Culpa, Meirhaeghe brings opera and dance together in a very innovative way, searching for a parallel universe. It’s a dark combination of contemporary and classical arts.
Femke and James form Partners. Their name perfectly describes them as an entity, because you will never find two people who complement each other like they do. Their music is a recreation of an experience, a mood, a place that has stayed with you.
Guaranteed to be a name you’ve heard over and over recently, Nkisi is the Belgium-raised and now London based DJ/producer Melika Ngombe Kolongo. High impact and fast paced, gabber to doomcore to West African rhythms, Nkisi is a force to be reckoned with and you can hear that in all her sets.
Canadian French is the project of young whizzkid Sean Michael Raab who already released a lot of music under monikers such as Woolly Mammoths and Misérable. Earlier this year he dropped a mixtape together with his girlfriend Jill Verhaeghe, called Poney Club, featuring 10 fresh songs from 9 upcoming acts from Brussels. Bubblegum Popcorn is a vintage romantic song for fans of Sean Nicholas Savage and Part Time.
With the help of the Live Fast Die Young platform, Rumours has quickly become one of the most talked-about bands in the Flemish electronic scene. The Ghent-based band blew us away with their album Megamix, confronting their cold, shamanic electronica with the heavenly setting of Ibiza. This unusual clash gives birth to original and refreshing compositions.
Lil Skid is a name we hadn’t heard of before September. He wasn’t tipped to us by other artists or promoters. It’s one of those acts you discover after hours of digging on Soundcloud. We immediately fell in love with his raw and sharp rap style and quality beats, made by friends Retnik and Chuki Beats. If you’re into Yung Simmie, Travis Scott and Lil Tracy you’ll definitely like this kid from Ghent.
Bear Bones, Lay Low plays psychedelic drone based on improvisation. As a tirelessly touring musician Ernesto Gonzalez has proven himself by surprising audiences time and time again with his spaced-out jams. After all these years, after all these releases and after all these Subba mentions Ernesto’s music is still on point. His live show at the opening night of C12 in Brussels was truly one of the best performances we’ve seen this year.
One of the most intriguing musical projects in Belgium these days is Techno Thriller. The four-handed formation mingles industrial and dark cultures rooted in techno, black metal and folkloric references to the dark ages of the medieval world. They’ll release a mini album Enfant de Sodome on Unknown Precept early 2019. Something to keep an eye on.
Angela, aka Ghetto Mami, goes under the alias of Miss Angel. She’s only been making music since March and has only released a couple of tracks, but people are already eager for more and so are we. This money-making Mami is super ambitious and is certainly going places in the Belgian hip-hop scene.
There’s more in life than Omar Souleyman or Acid Arab when you’re talking about Eastern or African flavoured electronics. Gan Gah for instance! This young Moroccan born and now Brussels-based producer is affiliated to collectives such as Lowup and Bloom Hill and makes fresh sounding Moroccan bass that reminds us of the energy of the Mexican NAAFI and Portuguese Principe labels.
We keep Obsequies close to our heart ever since he played his first ever live show at Sound Of The Belgian Underground last January. When you listen to his debut release Organn, it feels as if you’re stumbling through an obscure landscape and suddenly noticing something that resembles of a lighthouse. Or maybe it’s a bird. You can’t recall – just as you forgot how you’ve gotten there in the first place. According to the Belgian artist, at its core the album is about ‘love and duality’. The distant melodies and broken samples lead you on a journey that is comforting in a strange way.
Lait de Coco is a collective of musicians and party promoters based in Liège. And yes, they’re as sweet as they sound! Lait de Coco was born in 2015, but they’ve only been active over the last year when they started their monthly parties, LDC Nights at KulturA. One of the four key members is LaBoK who dropped his 54 Summer Dogs In HighKastle EP a couple of months ago, making it one of the highlights of our Summer.
This is a remarkable collab between Brussels-based electronic wonders Clara Sobrino and Maoupa Mazzocchetti. Clara! made quite a name for herself with her excellent Reggaetoneras mixtapes. Mazzocchetti has a sonic vision which constantly straddles the line between wild experimentation and dancefloor compatibility. Together they bring us their Meneo album, a blend of deadly reggaeton and Caribbean futurism, on which Clara! shows herself as a sensational vocalist. El Ratón is one hell of a song.
One of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2018 came from Zoë McPherson formerly known as Empty Taxi. With String Figures the interdisciplinary artist from Brussels succeeded in creating a perfect blend of richly layered textures of noise, traditional and club music. This could be a new treasure if you’re into Holly Herndon, Lucrecia Dalt and Lotic.
Jack of all trades Rin Suemi is a singer, producer and performance artist. As a dance and choreography student at California Institute of the Arts she started experimenting with sound. Along the way she invented her musical persona, Golin, a futuristic pop princess. After releasing her fantastic Momo EP on Midlife she became part of the Shape Platform that gave her a big push in breaking through internationally and playing several shows at cutting edge festivals all over Europe. Besides creating quality music Golin is also a mind-blowing live performer that could reach wider audiences.
Ben Bertrand stumbled into this list thanks to one of our dear magazine editors. Bertrand is a former KASK Conservatorium – School of arts student who plays a bass clarinet. Armed with just his instrument and sound effects he creates a dreamy and hypnotic sound. His latest album on Les Ateliers Claus is pure bliss.
With Perron Zes, what you see is what you get. They prefer not to be labeled, seeing themselves as a constantly changing collective. They’ve put their unique mark on the Brussels underground scene by combining everything they love: from designing clothes to organising parties to hosting a radio show. Perron Zes mastermind Larpie also impressed us with his musical tunes. Together with his partner in crime Quintano from Slagwerk he dropped a hilarious album Broeders Van De Motorcrossclub full of Dutch autotune raps. LarpiEEgezien!?? was the Summer jam of every Perron Zes or Slagwerk fan and the ultimate anthem of their parties.
Thanks to Lindsi, Emiel, Julien, Jonas, Frederik, Célia, Sasha, Ruud, Hannes, Guillaume, Thomas, Fréé, Sofie, Herlinde, Hendrik, Thomas, Kasper-Jan, Dries, Simen, Marlies, Souria, Angela, Amaury and Julien for the input.