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- The Ultimate Edition by Snowy Red
9/10 Brian Staff review, 19 October 2012
Well I was hoping for a Wikipedia entry on this most celebrated of underground Belgian synth-wave artists but there isn't one. Marcel Thiel (aka Micky Mike) was originally the bassist in the first punk band to emerge in French speaking Belgium, specifically Brussels. They were snappily called Chainsaw, and are infamous for also releasing the first ever Belgian punk single, two months after we were subjected to 'Anarchy in the UK'. So they were pretty on the ball those lads and had a guitarist called Jerry Wanker to boot. That is so much more punk than Steve Jones, eh?
Enough about that, weep and dance to the sound of a man who realised that acts such as Suicide and the minimal blurt and scree of that there quickly burgeoning electronic hardware was the ultimate way forward 'cause R’n’R as we knew it was dead man. D-E-A-D.
The most exciting thing about this lovingly packaged box set is the discovery by Marcel's son of actual demo versions of tracks intended for the eponymous debut album. This much-anticipated disc is partnered in a baby gatefold with that very legendary first long-playing foray. These are truly fascinating tracks, probably about as important to the scene as the 'Golden Hour of The Future' tracks by the embryonic Human League. Totally crucial material for folks who dig that late ‘70s European sound that ended up being co-opted by some weirdos in Sheffield (Clock DVA, early Cabs etc), there are so many thrilling brittle rhythms and wonderful icy synth hooks to be devoured here, Marcel's echo-laden vocals spitting automaton-like mantras that fit the music like cold white fingers in the finest black leather glove.
Elsewhere you get the second resplendent album 'The Right to Die' coupled also with a disc of essential b-sides/demos. The sound here is fuller, wilder, more playful and poppier but still retains a fierce DIY ethos and songs spill with an otherworldly outsider weirdness. Most of this material has not been mastered for CD release before. The original vinyls all go for big sums so this is a neat package.
The final disc is the third album 'Vision' and this is where a more full-band dislocated ‘80s art-funk sound begins to take shape. The first track sounds like a mechanised Talking Heads remixed by Art of Noise. The style sounds rather of its time but is nevertheless totally fascinating and rich with imagination as you can hear proto new-beat rhythms and a moodier, sexier strut emerging. You can well imagine these guys (and gal) being one of the odder cult gangs on the scene! 'Sayonara' is certainly one superb track worth a mention with its ace M/F relay vocal, a wistful escalating synth line, some oriental chimes and twinkly dream-world atmospherics. The tune truly sounds like early Knife when 'Niki Mono' sings her parts and that flourish of chimes takes the song onto a higher plane.Totally loved this box set from start to finish. If you like the more inventive end of synth-wave, electro-pop and new wave then look no further, this is momentous stuff and very influential to boot. The amazing 'Euroshima (Wardance)' from 1982 belatedly became one of the first and most celebrated anthems to shape the much heralded Belgian New Beat scene. Like, in 1987 the track was then half-forgotten and dated from five years earlier! Like I say, seminal...sorry these boxes aren't cheap either, not from anywhere, for this is special music for special people.
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