With the current trend for dance music to navel gaze on its origins (think continuing acid house revival, or the lo-fi tape experiments of labels like L.I.E.S.) it’s no wonder that the past year has seen a spotlight cast on the proto-rave music that was continually streaming out of Belgium in the late 1980’s. Last year’s excellent ‘The Sound of Belgium‘ box set and its accompanying documentary film covered a wide stretch of ground from industrialists like Front 242 right through to golden era hardcore from labels like R&S.
A certain Rembert De Smet featured on a couple of the included tracks, including the one for which he is arguably best remembered – Zsa Zsa Laboum’s ‘Something Scary‘ (also reissued on Jerome Hill’s Don’t label in 2012). Here, Mental Groove records new sub-label Musique Pour La Danse has delved deep into De Smet’s archives and produced a 35 track retrospective (with an 8 track selection also available on a double vinyl version).
In 1988 Belgium was gripped by a fresh sound coined as ‘New Beat’ – ostensibly a cross between the EBM bands of the mid-80’s and the acid house that had recently been crossing the Atlantic. Rembert De Smet, who had already seen some success as part of a synthpop group known as 2 Belgen, started to experiment with the new sound using a moniker under which he could differentiate himself – Ro Maron was born. In spite of the pseudonym, the sheer rate at which he would begin to produce and release tracks (both on his own and with collaborators such as Maurice Engelen – better known as Praga Khan) meant that his work eventually appeared under a dazzling variety of other names (around 20 of which cover the work collected here).
To be entirely fair, a good amount of this material has not aged particularly gracefully – a lot of the vocal samples used sound rather cliched nowadays. But that’s not to belie its importance as a historical document, or it’s potential impact on a modern dancefloor. From the proto-trance of ‘Welcome to my Acid House‘ by Phantasia to the electro-funk of ‘SM‘ by SM, there’s a wide spread of influence on show – it’s certainly no one-trick pony.
Little Little’s ‘Just The Way Like This‘ and Mr White’s ‘Gimme Some Acid‘ would still tear up any club, as would Air of Gloom’s ‘Meditation‘ – a clear precursor of the more thumping Belgian techno sound that was to follow. Disc 2 of the CD opens with some sublimely Balearic moments – Le Mystere’s ‘Opus 303‘ and the Pink Floyd sampling ‘Pink Zone (Sax Mix)‘ by Sleepwalker – before moving into early deep house territory and eventually moving back towards slower EBM styles. The five bonus digital only tracks seem like something of an afterthought though, and lengthen the set unnecessarily.
It’s an interesting compilation of work from a producer whose role in the formation of dance music as we’ve later come to know it is undervalued, but one which may have benefitted from being a little less comprehensive. The vinyl edition will be of use to DJ’s, but the lengthier CD and digital version is one that the casual listener will probably prefer to dip into rather than consume end-to-end.
Ro Maron Collected is out now via Musique Pour La Danse, order a vinyl copy from Boomkat.
1. Zsa Zsa La Boum – Something Scary
2. Edwards & Armani – Acid Drill
3. Phantasia – Welcome To My Acid House
4. Reject 707 – Brain Killer
5. Kaos 007 – ..ck On Acid (Instrumental Mix)
6. Miss Nude – Taste My Acid Fruit
7. Mr White – Gimme Some Acid
8. SM – SM
9. 2 Body’s – Body Drill
10. Air Of Gloom – Meditation (Astro Mix)
11. Agaric – Tiled Room (Reversed Mix)
12. Sleepwalker – I Got You
13. Little Little – Just The Way Like This
14. Trance Trax – Give Yourself
15. Trance Trax – Odd Flute (UK Mix)
16. Le Mystère – Opus 303
17. Sleepwalker – Pink Zone (Sax Mix)
18. Le Mystère – On The Beat (Dub)
19. Sleepwalker – Sleepwalker
20. Sleepwalker – All Jazz
21. Beat Beat Beat – Beat In The Street
22. Alpha Beta – Games For Boys (Instrumental)
23. Little Little – It Just Makes We Want To Dance (Instrumental Dub)
24. Believe It Or Not – I Like It (Instrumental)
25. Zsa Zsa La Boum – Tu Veux Ou Tu Veux Pas (Instrumental)
26. Rhythm Kings – A La Recherche Du Temps Perdue
27. 2 Body’s – Astoria
28. Agaric – I’m Gonna Beat This (Instrumental Acid Mix)
29. Agaric-Bhab – Cute Acid