Belgium. There is no questioning the significance this European country holds when discussing the history and celebration of techno music along with neighboring regions like the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK. With pioneering label R&S Records originally coming together during 1984 in Ghent, Belgium before its eventual relocation to London, the foot prints left along the road have made way for plenty of new life to sprout up within the country's music tradition. Today's emergence of Belgian labels like Token, Creme Organization, and even R&S' ambient sub-label - Apollo, are an essential part of what keeps Belgium - and the techno scene in general - relevant & running.
It leaves no wonder why one of the continent's biggest events - I Love Techno - throws down one of the craziest, most notorious parties known to electronic music lovers today in the city of Ghent. Every year in November, the Flanders Expo transforms into a temple with massive warehouse rooms where, in each, you will find the biggest DJ's and live performers in techno or house crafting together booming sets meant to drive fans wild. Consider it Belgium's "National Techno Day" if you will, and this year's line up made a lasting impression that'll definitely be quite tough to top. Wrapping up 12+ hours of room hopping, beer drinking, body moving, and socializing would be nearly impossible to accomplish, so we've brought you five tracks that sent the energy levels at Flanders Expo sky high on November 8th:
Jeff Mills - "The Bells"
A stand-alone classic. And pretty much an expected gem to be played at an event like this, but that's not to undermine how much more special it was when Jeff Mills himself played it during his set. Already hosting an overly-amped crowd in the Red Room that was swayed with everything Mills threw at them, it was all over once those bells chimed in. Of course, Mills wasn't the only one keen enough to drop this. I first caught sound of it that night an hour and a half earlier inside the Black Room when Rødhåd graced the crowd with a slow-to-build climax that had everyone dancing and anticipating the drop of the bells. Given the Black Room was not even 1/4 the size of the Red Room, the steam and sweat gave the moment a true gritty warehouse feel. You just had to be there.
Untold - "Motion the Dance"
Waving through the speakers in the Black Room, Untold's atmospheric track of sinister genius was, in hindsight, a surefire way to send raving crowds over the top. As Kr!z wrapped up his set and prepared the segue for Rødhåd, the Token label head surely switched the the floor vibe to a greyed dystopian scene with its massive kicks, impeccable atmospherics, and all around dark feel. Plenty of people had their fist in the air (and not in a "fist pump" sort of way) midway and it solidified the power of the moment. If you're yet to listen to this track do yourself a favor and grab proper headphones or use your family party monitors to catch the sub frequencies here. It's way worth it -- trust me!
MMM - "Nous Sommes"
As I made my way to the Yellow Room, which was being occupied by the room's host himself, Boys Noize, I followed the masses of people making their way into an already packed warehouse. Per usual, the I Love Techno veterano had the room going and as I went off to the side in search of a beer to complement things, Herr Alex Ridha himself crept this MMM anthem in a way that only he could do. Surely, this one is another crowd favorite that people recognize and wait for because the anticipation + release was so perfectly in sync that people lost their shit on cue. German flags were waved with pride perhaps in homage to MMM or Alex Ridha's home country. Either way, this one was a killer tune at 3 in the morning.
Plastikman - "Spastik"
This one here was planned with care. As Brodinski & Gesaffelstein were already one of the top picks of the night, their B2B set was beyond what I expected. Crafty in their DJ'ing the two slowed the momentum with Plastikman's 1993 tune, "Spastik". Known largely as an 8 minute moment of build-up at its core, the Bromance Records masterminds utilized the track to its full potential, and then some. Watch this short clip uploaded by a brave user on Youtube here after you're done with the actual track above and see for yourself. The quality is not the best, but you will see how the French power duo had the crowd at their mercy. They almost make it look easy...
Zombie Nation - "Kernkraft 400"
You've probably heard it on cheesy radio commercials, at sports arenas, in European soccer video games, or even (if you're old enough) during a rave in the 90's - but this track is, by now, so overly played that the chances of actually hearing a DJ drop this is slim to none…. and then there is Vitalic. Certainly a DJ with plenty years of rave experience under his belt, he incorporated this track successfully. Cheesy or not, crowds clapped and chanted to the track in unison with happiness. What's more, Vitalic's segue to a Snoop Dogg "Drop It Like It's Hot" mini medley took me back to the 213 in California for a quick minute. Just epic!