Make hay while the sun shines! The Black Box Revelation is putting this advice to practise. With their just-released third album My Perception, the duo from Dilbeek is aiming high: conquering America. Is it youthful recklessness or do they stand a chance? Now, I’m no fortune-teller, but the signs look promising.
First and foremost, My Perception is a collection of fierce rock songs, in the vein of some famous guitar & drums twosomes, like The White Stripes or The Black Keys. Rooted in bluesy rhythms, inspired by classic rock – think The Rolling Stones or Neil Young – and played with zest: It is what makes American music fans tick these days.
But as important is the support Black Box Revelation is receiving from its newly found American label Merovee Records, partially owned by talk show star David Letterman. The label is making a considerable investment to make the twosome a household name in United States.
Guitarist and singer Jan Paternoster and drummer Dries Van Dijck have come a long way since they finished second in Humo’s Rock Rally, the region’s most important rock contest, five years ago. They were, respectively, 17 and 15 years old.
But quite soon, they were putting all their energy into the band. Wasn’t it like giving up their youth? Paternoster is clear: “No, it never felt that way.”
In fact: “Compared to what’s happening now, we were lazy back then,” he tells me over the phone from on the road in the US. “These days, we have almost no time outside of the band. I can’t even go on holiday with my girlfriend when I want to. So it’s encouraging to get loads of good reactions on My Perception.” (And still on 2010’s album Silver Threats, which just went gold in Belgium.)
“Hardest to take for me are the countless hours we lose on tour,” continues Paternoster (right in photo). “Especially this American tour is very arduous on that level. We drive 700 to 1,000 kilometres for each show.” The band seems to ask a lot of sacrifices from both of them. “That’s true.” But, he adds firmly: “It’s still worth it.”
After recording two albums on their home turf, Black Box Revelation travelled to Los Angeles to record My Perception with producer Alain Johannes. “It’s good to be away from home,” to record, says Paternoster, because “you know you’re only there with one goal: to make the best album possible. It raises the stakes.”
And they succeeded with this top-notch album – an overall richer and more polished sound than on their previous two. But that’s not all on the production, Paternoster clarifies. “It’s our third album: It’s logical we’re more experienced. If you listen back to our first album, you hear a very naïve band. And we have played live a lot after the previous album, that also helps.”
He concludes: “We deal quite easily with stress and outside pressure and don’t care about other people’s expectations. We’re level-headed.” Young, but wise.
The two Black Box Revelation shows in Brussels next month are sold out. Check their website for other nearby stops
June ’81· Dim Din Records
At the end of the 1990s and the first years of the following decade, Antwerpenaar Bjorn Eriksson was the guitarist of Zita Swoon. He left the band to start his own project, Maxon Blewitt, and quickly released two albums. But it took five years to come up with the third, June ’81. The album, which releases towards the end of the month, is inspired by the vague, overexposed Polaroid of a naked woman Erikkson found when he was five, in 1981. He lets his imagination run wild and even travels, in his mind, to Mexicali. But the music is more American than Mexican – rootsy rock with a wailing pedal steel, alternately dreamy and steadily. www.maxonblewitt.com
Schaduwliefde · Dandy One Records
Singing in Dutch hasn’t always been popular in Flanders, but the times they are a-changin’: Bands as diverse as rockers Buurman and spacey popsters Senne Guns are choosing to sing in their mother tongue nowadays. Ghent trio Hermitage opted six years ago for Dutch, but it took them until now to release their first full-length album. Their chansons, written by main man David Van den Hende (aka Divan), have a strong melancholic twist, especially when the piano and the cello take the lead. But mourning about things lost doesn’t exclude humour, and a few songs are really funny – although always with a dark side. A few times Hermitage shift to a higher gear, but they’re at their best when more restrained. www.hermitageweb.be
Aux larmes citoyens · Parsifal
The highly underrated Orchestre Du Mouvement Perpetuel released two albums in the previous decade, with mostly francophone songs. On his first solo album, the Ostend bandleader Peter Bultink, doesn’t change course. Although you can hear he’s not singing in his mother tongue, it’s not problematic. The high-octane songs are swinging and funky and beg you to sing along. Some of them are reminiscent of Flemish rock icon Arno, and, after hearing the album, it came as no surprise to read in the liner notes that Serge Feys, Arno’s sidekick, has produced Aux larmes citoyens. The title, which translates as To Tears Citizens, is a pun on Aux armes, citoyens (To arms, citizens), famous words from the French national hymn La Marseillaise. www.peterbultink.com
The End of Things You Wished Would Last Forever · I Have a Tiger Records
The eponymously titled full-length debut of SimpleSongs (artist name of Ken Veerman) stayed under the radar last year. Hopefully his new EP, with the melancholy title The End of Things You Wished Would Last Forever, won’t meet the same fate. Though only 18 minutes, it’s an 18 minutes way too good to be neglected. SimpleSongs elegantly navigates from trip-hop (“A Sentence for Life”) to minimalist pianotronica (“Underground”) to pop (“Cruelty from a Heart of Gold”). Most of the songs thrive on sadness, although there is some sparse light in Veerman’s universe. He kept the most sad, and the best song, for last: the short piano lament “We’re Hiding It Well”. Simple, but far from simplistic, this EP. www.simplesongs.be