One simply can’t talk about experimental belgian DIY and new wave music without mentioning Alain Neffe (Bene Gesserit, Pseudo Code, Subject, etc), who, since the late 1970s, has been instrumental in shaping that scene and exposing it to the rest of the world thru his Insane Music label and its signature compilation series; Insane Music For Insane People.
An Introduction to the Insane World of Alain Neffe offers a timely survey of this inspirational artist’s wide-reaching output, which, along with the in-depth historical liner notes, places his work as a solo artist, consummate collaborator and curator in a wider social and musical context for anyone intrigued by belgium’s disproportionately ace contributions to ‘80s new beat, minimal and cold wave.
As the liner notes inform us, Neffe was born in 1949, and grew up listening to a solid diet of rock, pop and jazz before discovering psyche and more experimental music, going on to teach himself how to play the flute. By 1971 he’d formed Kosmose, a far out psyche band whose line-up was completed by Guy-Marc Hinant on drums (who would go on to co-found the excellent Sub Rosa label), and by ’75 Neffe had acquired a Roland SH1000 and drum machine that was quickly modded to his own specs.
During that period Neffe cemented a number of relationships which would endure thru the new wave and post-punk phase, placing him in a unique position as a slightly older, self-funded character with the impetus and modest means to help foster Belgium’s now, and then, acclaimed underground - maybe a little bit like Bruce Gilbert in the UK, for comparison, who was roughly the same age and shared similar outsider’s intent over in the UK with Dome, Wire and associated, non-mainstream acts, although Neffe and Insane’s output was perhaps more informed by a dark belgian sense of humour.
And that brings us to this set, covering many aspects of Neffe’s oeuvre thru no less than five songs with his wife Nadine Bal on vox as Bene Gesserit, including their cold, strung out and neo-folksy Femmes Aux Jeux d’argils, the opiated shimmer of On Protège Bien Les Requins or the darker coldwave pop perks of Tonight to give you some idea of his range and tastes. But then factor in the split, glum personalities of Pseudo Code, his project with Guy Hinant in the chamber-like Surrounding (extract 1) and the crankier ambient noise stirrings of The Crook of Your Heart, or the creepy slither of his Human Flesh pieces with Mirella Brunello and Daniel Malempre, and our image of Neffe only becomes more muddled and intriguing, yet coherent in its binds.
Hopefully this brilliant set will turn a new wave of bonces onto this fascinating end of the belgian ‘80s underground, and all its related, precious charms, as well as giving Neffe’s legacy the spotlight it deserves.
Unmissable gear from this hugely promising label.