Ro Maron, le Magritte de la New Beat

In 2015, Musique Pour La Danse released an exhaustive anthology of Ro Maron’s late eighties and early nineties productions that gathered for the first time hard to find but seminal tracks from a variety of the producer’s many aliases such as Ro Maron, Agaric, Le Mystère and Zsa Zsa La Boum to name a few.

This compilation underlined how important this producer was not just for Belgian New Neat but for global dance music by and large. Today, in 2018, Ro Maron is sadly no longer with us, yet his legacy lives on through his records, and Musique Pour La Danse is thrilled to reissue on vinyl two classic tunes by his alias Le Mystère with long time collaborator Ferre Baelen as well as two tracks which were exclusive to his anthology and that have never been released elsewhere. The release comes with a drawing by Ro Maron himself, in typical Genth style (Rembert’s hometowm) as well as liner notes written by the one and only Geert Sermon from Brussels, the man behind The Sound Of Belgium, TSOB compilations and longlasting Doctor Vinyl record shop.

Re-mastered from original masters by Frederic Stader (former Dubplates and Mastering) at Music Matters Mastering and cut on lacquers by Emil Berliner (former Deutsche Grammophon), this would be a definitive edition.

Listen to “Opus 303” and read the insert text by Geert Sermon below.

Rembert de Smet by Geert Sermon

An ordinary Sunday afternoon, somewhere in the rural outskirts of Brussels. Two guys are standing on a stage, huge in my memories, probably not much larger than a big snooker table in reality.
In front: a thin, pale guy with wild, dark curly hair. I notice his big round glasses, nothing fancy, more like really, really ordinary glasses. He looks funny, he wears something that looks like a ballet leotard, high socks, and white sports shoes. He makes these weird noises with his voice, pronouncing a girl’s name like it was a mantra. His mimics and the underlying music seem to mutate the girl’s name into a trance-like blur, his body shakes on an imaginary tempo with weird, ecstatic movements that seem to defy rhythm and time. I was 10 years old and had no idea of what or who I just saw, but this weird and wonderful music immediately caught my attention.

The group was called Twee Belgen, sort of a tongue-in-cheek joke since apparently the only thing the two guys on stage had in common was their nationality. They were just Two Belgians.
 One was called Rembert and the other, who I unwillingly blurred out of the picture, was Herman. I see both of them talking to my father after their passage on stage. That doesn’t surprise me because my father used to talk to everybody.

Herman had dark flat hair, also very big glasses, and sounded like he was from Antwerp, Rembert had this unmistakable juicy Ghent accent. I vaguely hear my father’s remark that they maybe should think about buying some decent, real stage clothes, but that this, apparently, didn’t stop his 10-year-old son from liking their music. They laugh …
Half an hour later my father hands me over two toothpicks with miniature Belgian flags glued on. Behind his back he’s hiding, more important for me in the long run, two vinyl 7” singles: Fever and Quand Le Film Est Triste.
At the time, Fever scared the hell out of me. The alien guitar sounded like a howling wolf chased by Rembert’s mad singing. It gave me nightmares.
On the other hand, Lena, that funny and daring mantra track about a girl, was months in a row the number one hit on my turntable, well. I owned about 5 records.

A song with a stuttered computer voice pronouncing Lena Lena Lena Lena reigns the airwaves over spring and summer. An updated dance-version had transformed my “Lena” from a frivolous girl into a dance floor queen.
2 Belgen, now with a real group on stage, had overnight become poster boys in Belgium, Holland and the North Of France. They were all over the radio and the press.

I see them on national television on the 21st of July, which seemed to be very appropriate. 2 Belgen live on television for the Belgian National Holiday: A local taste for surreal humour is needed to grasp the inside joke.
Gone was the ballet leotard, gone were the big glasses, and gone was Herman.
Instead: a stunning live group fronted by Rembert outperforming everybody just by being his own electric self …
A new musical wave had been breaking on the shores and even though the hype on local Belgian Pop Music and festivals had been on an unparalleled height, nightclubs and dance music were at a breakneck speed becoming the next big thing. The soundtrack of the future was going to be electronic and danceable and Rembert decided it was better to be a pioneer than to be left behind.
The sound of 2 Belgen had radically changed but I adored this new musical direction filled with weird electronic beats and that unique sound of, what I much later learned was, Rembert’s guitar synthesizer.

Some things, however, stayed the same: my father still insisted that Remember should find a decent stylist for his stage clothes.

The Belgian Pop bubble had busted.
Almost all of the groups from the golden 80’s had gone into hibernation as soon as the local festival and concert circuit went belly up, leaving the musicians of groups like Tc Matic, 2 Belgen, and so many others to be creative or otherwise find a real job.
The rent still had to be paid. With a little help from his label boss Maurice “Lords Of Acid” Beelen, Rembert hooked up with his friend Ferre to make some machine grooves for the discotheques. Ferre  had already earned himself local Godlike status ever since his trademark bass playing spawned one of TC Matic’s biggest hits: “O La La La”. An iconic track pulsed by one massive bass line.

Gone into hiding behind the stage names Ro Maron and Bhab, Rembert and Ferre made a clean slate of their past and dove, punk “do it yourself”-style, head first, into a new adventure.
303, synth guitar, drum machines and a sequencer were the main actors in dozens of projects , with ever-changing names, as the two “ex-pop icons” recycled themselves as finest purveyors of the royal New Beat household.

Ferre was the king of the bass lines, Rembert was the master of arrangements, samples and weird sounds: two real musicians crafting hard abstract dance music, tripped out but reduced and filtered into a 4-minute “song” structure blueprint. As a kid I checked all the credits on my vinyl records and Ro Maron and Bhab were my unconditional heroes: my New Beat dream team.
 Once I figured out who they really were it all made sense to me. They were “2 Belgen” Version 3.0 and in my head, Lena had become this dance floor diva hiding behind different names: “Little Little, Zsa Zsa Laboum, Sister Movie.
By now the music had changed to the extreme and was unrecognizable, but my feelings stayed the same: I loved what I heard.
As for my father, he hated my “New Beat” looks and clothes, but he could live with the fact that I liked this weird music … One thing that never seemed to change …

Sunday, August 14th, 23.00
Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Right ..
The marching tempo of what sounded like an army blasted out of an impressive stack of speakers. A man is shouting orders on top of layered screeching acid sounds while the heaviest beats this side of the moon made the mirror-lined room shake.
Where the hell did I end up now?
Welcome to Boccaccio !!, shouts out my friend Eric, 10 years older and 10 times crazier as I, This is THE TEMPLE of New Beat !!!.
A piercing laser-dome and a spider-like structure hang in front, blue neon lights are flashing on the side, my vision is blurred by a thick mist.

New Beat had already longtime faded and turned into hardbeat. Hardbeat was about to mutate into Belgian Rave, and all along Rembert, with or without Ferre, had continued to show the way with new productions, zigzagging expertly through styles and spheres.
In the meantime, digging in the bargain bins of my local record store had become my favorite pass time. Looking through misunderstood or unloved records was the only solution to buy DJ music on my shoestring budget. 100 Belgian Francs (now 2 euros) for a record that nobody played seemed absolutely reasonable to me.

Le Mystère. A second track on the A-side of a sleeveless record locks me in sonic heaven. Slow breakbeats introduce a profound deep bass growl that makes slowly room for a 303. A squelching machine giving birth to one of the most breathtaking acid journeys ever placed on vinyl. It’s called Le Mystere and This is the best record in the world runs through my mind, this is bliss extraordinaire, this is the music I want to hear and play in a club! But mysteriously enough (pun intended) nobody played Le Mystère and it got eclipsed by time and seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth, up until, on a random Thursday night I heard the mighty DJ Dimitri play it at Roxy in Amsterdam: it all made sense, this record was conceived for magical moments in a magical places, it was THE special record ! The random girl next to me smiled when she heard me shout This is the best record in the world ! out loud.

Fast forward fifteen odd years or so.
Jozef Devillé had a plan, he wanted to make a movie about Belgian Dance music.
One of the first interviews Jozef, Pablo and I did was in the bar of the Vooruit concert hall in Ghent. We looked for our interviewee because we were, as always, a bit late and our man didn’t have a mobile phone.
I looked to the left and I recognized him: he wore glasses, his wild rebellious hair had some grey in there and he wore normal clothes. It was Rembert.
We all talked for hours and Rembert’s surreal, but down to earth vision on Belgium and its local music scene was, for sure, one of the elements that would drive the movie The Sound Of Belgium, 7 lengthy years down the line. That night I told my father that I had met Rembert and that I was going to help make a movie about Belgian Music.  That’s good, he nodded,  Rembert is a really nice guy and you always loved that weird music, now you guys should go and tell the story! Weirdly enough he didn’t mention anything about clothing, some things did change.

Rembert, even though you’re no longer here, your story will not be left untold!
Au Revoir L’artiste, Le Mystère restera… THANK YOU for The Sound Of 2 Belgen !

Geert “Doctor Vinyl” Sermon aka “Erge Stormen”

(from the insert text)

(from the insert drawing)

Musique Pour La Danse will release Le Mystérious EP (Collector’s Edition) in March 2018.d

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