Various Artists: Funky Chimes: Belgian Grooves from the '70s

The good and the baffling of 1970s Belgium come together for a unique ride through a tiny nation.

Various Artists

Funky Chimes: Belgian Grooves from the ‘70s

Label: Sdban
US Release Date: 2017-06-02
UK Release Date: 2017-06-02

There's no question that funk is one of the quintessential American-born music styles, but in the 1970s, it was everywhere. In some places, especially across Latin America and much of sub-Saharan Africa, this spread is well documented. In Belgium, though, that's never been the case -- until now.

Funky Chimes: Belgian Grooves from the ‘70s thoroughly documents the nation's little-known funk scene of the 1970s, and it makes for a wild ride. A double album, it consists of a massive 27 tracks -- some good, some baffling, and all very, very smooth.

It's rare to hear straight funk here; most of the music tends to be a little cooler and less nasty than standard funk. Everywhere you go, there are psychedelic overtones or simmering hits of slinky jazz. Opening track "Scratch My Back" definitely has some funky grooves, but they aren't the main theme. They're the background music, slowed down and a little repetitive -- an afternoon stroll instead of a high-powered strut. The compilation continues, steady and sweet, with piano embellishments adding a lighter touch to "Funky Chimes", and "Faded Lady Instrumental" sounding like a watered-down Isaac Hayes joint.

This isn't to say that it's all rip-offs of the Shaft theme; some genuinely creative gems stand out, usually the ones that try to emulate the spirit of funk rather than the technical aspects. With "Travelling on Rhythms", Bud Hunga picks up some real rhythm with fast and fiery keys and brass. Kandahar's "The Fancy Model" is pure, quick-moving jazz with tight orchestration. R. Dero's "Soul Melody" is a complex, winding tune with moments of refreshing syncopation.

Some of the strongest songs are the long psychedelic jams. The Flying Guitar's "Barabajagal" serves as a wordless band name origin story, and the Free Pop Electronic Concept's "Chewing Gum Delirium" spirals up, down, and sideways in chaotic elation. At nearly 15 half minutes long, Electronic System III's "Skylab" is by far the longest track on the album (and at times the slowest, and sparsest), but also one of the most intense. You can't really dance to it, but to drift through its layers of synths is an atmospheric delight.

Some tracks miss the mark entirely. The Sumos' "My Chinese Girl Likes Kung Fu Fighting" has a sleazy tone to it, and the vocals are pretty garbled under reverb, which is probably for the best since they mostly just exoticize a Chinese girl. André Brasseur's "X" has some of the same garbled vocals, but in this case, they're clearly meant to be orgasmic moans, the sound quality and speed of which take this track from emulating Donna Summer to sounding like a low-budget horror movie victim. "We Love The Policeman" is a cheesy, campy mess. Its melody is trite, its lyrics confusing, and the vocals strained.

The album ends on a high note with Lieven's "Akkerwinde", a slow-building rock song with occasional jazz grooves and a killer electric guitar solo that takes up the last three minutes. It's the least typical funk song on the album, but some percussion and brass are buried in there before the track heads in a prog direction.

If nothing else, Funky Chimes tells a fascinating story of Belgium and the music that came out of it in one particularly musical decade, and it spares no detail. This is not an album for your ironic disco party, nor is it really made to be listened to for any one genre. There's a harvest here to reap, and even though some of the fruits may be a little rotten, it's well worth checking out if you want to feel a little more in tune with some classic Benelux beats.






Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.