Founded in 1977 by Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, Aksak Maboul already contained some of the key elements of the Crammed æsthetics: eclecticism, internationalism, deliberate and playful mixing of forms, cultures and genres.
“Onze danses pour combattre la migraine” (1977) is somewhat like an assortment of musical sushis. Very peculiar charm and atmosphere, despite (or thanks to) its diversity: mischievous winks to Thelonious Monk, Robert Wyatt, Satie, Ellington, Nino Rota, Eric Dolphy, Kraftwerk, Ravel and the American Minimalists; tributes to Pygmy, Berber and Romanian Gypsy music; primitive drum machines and demented “human sequencer” organ lines, along with assorted snatches of fake ethnic, fake jazz or fake classical music. It also contains a characteristic keyboard stab pattern which mysteriously re-appeared some twelve years later on dozens of techno tracks, from Detroit and elsewhere… It can be said without too much exaggeration that this record’s freshness and originality made it a cult album since its release.
Shortly after the recording of “Onze Danses…” , Aksak Maboul became a performing band in the autumn of 1977. A percussionist (Chris Joris) and a keyboard player (Marc Moulin of Telex fame, soon to be replaced by Frank Wuyts) joined the original nucleus of Hollander & Kenis, while guests were more and more frequently added: vocalist Catherine Jauniaux, bassoon / oboe player Michel Berckmans, cellist Denis Van Hecke, sax player Geoff Leigh, drummer Guigou Chenevier etc.
“Un peu de l’âme des bandits” (1980) was recorded by a lineup featuring English musicians Fred Frith and Chris Cutler. More intense and “experimental” than the first one, this album’s music contains complex, completely written sections as well as totally improvised hardcore ambient pieces, not to mention drum machines, bassoons, sampling before samplers existed, Bulgarian, Pygmy, Polynesian and Delta Blues voices, tango, a Turkish tune, crypto-punk or pseudo-Varese music…
Even the most ambitious moments of “…l’âme des bandits” are infused with Aksak Maboul’s customary playfulness: “Tango” for example is based on various existing tangos, the scores of which were cut-up, shuffled and randomly glued back together; the musicians then proceeded to learn the resulting “opus”, and actually performed it live in one take; “A Modern Lesson” contains recorded fragments taken from every single other track on the album; the last section of “Cinema” is an improvised impression of a late-night program on Bulgarian radio…etc….
“Un peu de l’âme des bandits” was released in january 80. A couple of months later, the original nucleus of Aksak Maboul (Hollander & Kenis) and the core of Brussels cult combo Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel decided to recruit each other… With the addition of vocalist Véronique Vincent, the band that went on to become the notorious Honeymoon Killers performed thus in 80-81 across Europe under the name Aksak Maboul… Among the first pieces composed by that new band was “Bosses de crosses”, which is included in this CD. They later recorded the “Tueurs de la Lune de Miel / Honeymoon Killers” album and toured under that name, but that is another story… Aksak Maboul has only episodically resurfaced since then: the original duo of Hollander & Kenis recorded one third of the first Made To Measure volume in 83, composed original music for fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto’s ’86 shows, and created the acid house classic “Drop That Ghetto Blaster” in 88 under the name Mr Big Mouse. The Aksak Maboul spirit is well alive though, as both of the original protagonists play a central role in Crammed’s musical policies, both as producers and A&Rs.