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Benjamin Lew - Le personnage principal est un peuple isolé

Benjamin Lew - Le personnage principal est un peuple isolé

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A furtive figure on the 1980s Belgian scene, Lew was responsible for a few evocative releases on the cult and similarly genre-averse Crammed Discs label, who ending up working with the likes of The Durutti Column and Tuxedomoon. 

 

Listening to his albums is like embarking on a dream journey to the Sahara or the Far East. You’d think that some of the pieces feature non-European musicians or samples but: no... this is just Benjamin’s imagination, his synths, and his friends…” says Marc Hollander, Crammed Discs head honcho.

 

This collection of dreamlike soundscapes takes its title from a track which featured on Lew’s 1993 Le Parfum Du Raki CD only album, and gathers a treasure of wistful, woodwind-heavy  electronic pieces often composed with from Steven Brown of Tuxedomoon which were made for Crammed Disk’s subdivision Made to Measure (and very influential to Jan Van Den Broeke): the composers’ series was made for performance, multimedia or soundtracks, and the music produced was usually more experimental than the “regular" output of those artists. 

 

Not a musician per se, Lew took inspiration from the cut and paste techniques of William S. Burroughs’ and Brion Gysin’s literary beat experiments, and made the most of his connections from working as a cocktail mixer in ‘Le Papaya’, a tropical bar which was one of the favorite watering holes of Brussels' thriving artistic community of the early 80s. 

 

“I made my recordings on the 8-track recorder Marc (Hollander) had lent me. At night, for instance, Steven (Brown, from Tuxedomoon) came to the bar and I gave him a tape to listen to. After my night shift was done, we recorded his parts in the studio, in complete freedom. I gave all musicians carte blanche.”

 

The dreamy instrumental 'Profondeure des eaux des laques’ is the perfect introduction to this set of oddball ambient pop music, with lots of highlights such as ‘Face à ce qui se dérobe’ which reminded me a bit of the band Nef (also recently given new exposure by Ici Bientôt - see the review of their recent release below) or the home made cosmic ambient of ‘Hommes assis devant un mur chaulé’. 

 

 

Lew is perhaps at his best wringing plaintive emotions out of minor-key drama, such as on the aptly titled ‘La Magnifique Alcoolique’, (named after a regular client at the Papaya), or the eery melancholy of “Joyeux regrets imprécis.” All in all this is an amazing find and curation from STROOM once again, and a great soundtrack for introspective and melancholic days.

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