Marc Hollander/Aksak Maboul
Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine


It was in 1980 that I happened to read for the first time about the Belgian collective called Aksak Maboul, their new album titled Un Peu De L'Âme Des Bandits having just been released. On the surface, the record's main point of interest was the presence of Chris Cutler and Fred Frith, in those days real heroes of the alternative press. But right from the first listening session the record proved to be quite interesting on its own merits, the instrumental mix sporting convincing performances by Michel Berckmans on bassoon, Denis Van Hecke on cello (acoustic and electric), Frank Wuyts on keyboards and Marc Hollander on keyboards and winds. The first side of the album could be said in a way to have some traits in common with Fred Frith's Gravity - his "dance" album which had been recorded more or less at the same time and on which Marc Hollander played. Maybe this side hasn't aged too well, but the long piece on side two, Cinema, is still excellent.

About one year later a (vinyl) re-release made it possible for me to listen for the first time to Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine, Aksak Maboul's first album originally released in 1977. A fresh and quite subtle work, created almost in its entirety by Marc Hollander, with the help of some players, mainly multi-instrumentalist Vincent Kenis. I'm quite glad that the album is (at last!) available for the first time in a digital format. Still sounds fresh, time has not robbed it of those qualities and attributes that make it a fascinating one-of-a-kind item in the process of the creation of a (Continental) European music. One could easily see that Hollander was quite conversant with the tradition of classical music (but in the new liner notes Hollander stresses his being self-taught). One can also easily hear a pinch of Zappa, Philip Glass and minimalism, Henry Cow, Turkish music and Phil Miller. All with an excellent recorded sound, fortunately still present in this digital edition.

The album is also very stimulating on a timbral level - check the shiny Farfisa organ coupled with the drum machine on Saure Gurke, or the nice way Ellington's The Mooche is rearranged and linked to Vapona, Not Glue. Milano Per Caso has a nice melody and a convincing arrangement, just like the Zappa-influenced Son Of L'Idiot. Minimalist traces can be found in the studio version of Mastoul Alakefak and in the central vocal section of Chanter Est Sain, while a certain amount of humour appears in the fake-ethnic atmospheres of Glympz. Hollander does a good job on piano and clarinets (especially on bass clarinet). But it's the work as a whole that still convinces and fascinates the listener.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2004 | Sept. 5, 2004