A collective surviving through punk
With the recent release of A Place of Solace, Jachym Vandenabeele’s Aponogeton project is a fully-realised ambient soundscape. Finding his early artistic roots in dubstep, and evolving into an entirely new state, Vandenabeele’s creative journey retains strong bass lines while evoking a more minimalist aesthetic. We discussed the influence of electronic music on his career and his relationship with his home country. Although Vandenabeele didn’t feel a connection to Belgium as his ‘motherland’ at the start of his career, he’s become more engaged in the scene and is rediscovering its history through his new label, STROOM.
Interview by Jacob McPherson
Photos by Catherine Lemblé, shot in Ghent
In thinking of Belgium as your ‘motherland’, how did it inspire you artistically?
I didn’t feel a strong connection to Belgian music growing up. I was more engaged with international music (and more specifically from the UK) I found online – mostly social networks like Facebook, and platforms including YouTube and SoundCloud. When I started creating music in 2011, SoundCloud was the dominant platform for electronic artists. Both YouTube and SoundCloud helped me discover dubstep, which is where I started exploring beats.
There’s a sense that there’s room for everything here
In recent years I’ve become more integrated in the Belgian electronic community and rediscovering Belgium’s rich musical history. My label STROOM really helped me see what’s happening here and appreciate the experimental vibe of the scene. I now see Belgium as a place for artists to create music without feeling pressured to fall into a particular genre or have classical training. There’s a sense that there’s room for everything here.
You mentioned dubstep as an inspiration, can you talk more about this?
When I started creating songs back in 2011, dubstep was really big (internationally). Its impact motivated me to make music, learn about producing, and DJ’ing. I started making music loosely connected to the genre, but quickly moved away from clear genre boundaries. As I started getting deeper into electronic music, my music evolved to higher tempos with fusions of footwork, jungle, and more experimental drum and bass.
As I fine-tuned my own personal style, I started leaving out drum and beats to focus on what remained: melodies, harmonies, atmospheres, sound textures… That’s how I moved in the ambient direction that characterizes my music today. Dubstep interests me to this day. It keeps evolving, but everything interesting happening is back to the underground.
When I got really into the genre, I pretty much researched its entire history. Going all the way back to artists like Horsepower Productions, Digital Mystikz (Mala & Coki)… I was able to see how dubstep evolved. Aspects of the genre which remain in my music today are the emphasis on moods and the importance of bass to make music a physical experience as well.
I started making music loosely connected to dubstep, but quickly moved away from clear genre boundaries
Who’s another artist from that world that influenced you?
The UK artist Burial came up in the dubstep world and went down a similar path as the one I’m taking. I can hardly overemphasise how much he meant for me finding my own sound. Also influenced by moody and atmospheric jungle from the 90’s, Burial’s career in electronic music started with reinventing UK-garage for the dubstep generation. He sampled scores from films and video games like Metal Gear Solid, creating a very distinct sound and mood. He showed like no other that electronic music can be very well be emotionally resonant.
In addition to the platforms you mentioned, where do you find artists?
When learning about the history of dubstep, I spent a lot of time on Discogs. It really helped me discover the prominent artists’ background as well as the most obscure ones, from associations with labels and such. Regarding new artists, I follow Indiestyle and Subba, here in Belgium. Also, as I mentioned, STROOM has played a huge role in pointing me in the right direction to rediscover Belgium’s forgotten legacy, since they do reissues. There’s lots to discover within their catalogue.
Aponogeton plays at De Koer (organised by Kraak & Vooruit), Ghent
along with Aymeric De Tapol and Ahmedou Ahmed Lowla
on the 4th of May.
Free for Subbacultcha members. Join us here.