Restored 27 June 2017, originally published 15 April 2014
Some time ago, I was fortunate enough to discover of a type of music called “electro swing”. Also referred to as “swing-hop,” it is, as the names imply, a combination of elements found in swing music and electronica/hip-hop. You’ll frequently find samples of tracks from the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s alongside contemporary beats, turn tables, and synthesizers.
It first appeared in smatterings during the 1980s and ‘90s before hitting its stride in the mid-to-late 2000s. I was unfortunately ignorant to all of this at the time. As I had only just been born in the mid-‘80s and had barely figured how to use Altavista by 2000. It just wasn’t on the radar. Gradually the scene grew, along with my awareness of the musical universe. Eventually, perhaps inevitably, the spheres of our existence began to overlap. I cut my swing-hop teeth on ProleteR, who I shared in another review toward the end of 2013.
It was irresistibly catchy. My dancing feet and swaying hips were proof positive of that.
Now I’m here to share another equally catchy artist known as Boogie Belgique. Oswald Cromheecke is his real name, and he lives and produces in Antwerp, Belgium. The album in question is Nightwalker Vol. 2. (There is of course a volume 1 – which is great too – but I didn’t discover it until after I heard the second volume.) I find a lot of the tracks lean closer to the electro/hip-hop part of the spectrum than to the swing part, but there’s no shortage of swing. Every track spends time with something of the sort. For some, it’s with an old jazz voice like Ella Fitzgerald (I think) in “Hello Sinner”. Others emphasize instruments like the muted trumpets in “Monstro” or the oboe in “Red Steam”.
In the case of “Red Steam”, you might not even realize you’re about to get an earful of swingin’ jazz until 45 seconds in when a host of trumpets bob in and out of the background. An organ and a couple of guitars carry the song for a while before a trumpet takes over and brings with it that cool cool oboe. The transition from trumpet to oboe takes place around 2:29 and is as smoothly and cleanly executed as one could hope it to be. Most of the instruments and the beat carries on until the last 45 seconds when the beat drops out, then the guitar. Finally some stringed instruments (which snuck in somewhere) round out the track.
“March Of Time” brings all the best of swing and hip-hop. Similar to “Red Steam”, there’s no reason to suspect this track of hiding all the beautiful gems it holds. For example, a chopped up version of Peggy Lee’s “While We’re Young” shows up a few times. Trumpets galore are also to be found along with a groovy strumming guitar. The combined effect of it all speaks to the heart in my chest as much as it does to the soles of my feet.
This album does well to match itself to whatever good mood in which you find yourself. Even if you’re not in a good mood, look for it to lift you out of that negative space.
Oh yeah, there’s also a bunch of good remixes at the end featuring ProleteR, Mononome, and S Strong. These too are solid.
Check it out below!
Boogie Belgique – “Red Stream”
Boogie Belgique – “March Of Time”
Nightwalker Vol. 2 release page