Boomkat Product Review:
Metaphon’s guided tour of Belgian avant garde crypts leads to a mind-blowing first ever showcase of Jan Bruyndonckx 1958-65 autonomous compositions, plus concrète and electronic works for film and documentary - a 100% must-check for early electronics heads, from Henry and Schaffer at the GRMC, to Tod Dockstader in Hollywood.
Identifying another hole in the history books of experimental music, ‘Rails and Other Tracks’ yields an overdue insight to Jan Bruyndonckx’ independent work at a private studio separate to the usual academies and conservatoires. Like a Belgian parallel to the pioneers of the GRMC in Paris, or more acutely the cartoonist-turned-concrète innovator Tod Dockstader in Hollywood, Bruyndonckx similarly worked closely with moving image during the same years, and its not hard to hear a visual quality to his own works, which form a brilliantly peculiar and proto-psychedelic world unto themselves in this collection. We’d wager one will only be left scratching their head not just at the music, but also the fact this gear has remained out of earshot for so long, excepting a couple of compilation appearances with Alga Marghen and Ultra Eczema many years ago.
Tapping into something of an enduring Belgian obsession with trains (as evidenced in recent aces by Ann Eysermans and Stroom’s Nosedrip), Bruyndonckx opening piece ‘Rails’ (1958) feels like a wilder, almost lysergic answer to Pierre Schaeffer’s 1948 locomotion study ‘Études aux chemins de fer’, and sets the tone for an utterly immersive dive into his work over the proceeding years. Considering the intensely laborious process of constructing concrète sound back then, his 10 minute piece ‘Diamant’ is hugely impressive not least for its duration, but also the vivid imagination at work within, while ‘Amen’ (1962) genuinely dropped our jaws with its uncannily prescient elision of screwed noir jazz samples and ‘Fiorucci’-esque vocal cut-ups - seriously what the actual fuck‽ Likewise his ‘Untitled’ work pre-echoes soundtracks to Eraserhead and La Jetée, and there’s a properly poetic sense of license to ‘Evanaaste’ (1963) with its Paul De Vree text recited by Julien Schoenarts over a more daydreamy-bucolic variant, whereas the cut-up vox of ‘Variaties’ (1960) is better compared with a Burroughs’ approach, and then there’s the avant Hanna Berberian animation workshop madness of ‘De Geometrische Eend’ (1965) to utterly polish you off.