Auteur Labels \ Les Disques du Crépuscule [LTMCD 2517]
The ongoing compilation series Auteur Labels profiles independent record labels with a unique and enduring sound, vision and design sensibility, usually guided by one or two directors, concerned more with art than commerce.
This release focuses on Les Disques du Crépuscule, the chic, multimedia independent imprint founded by Michel Duval, Benoît Hennebert and Annik Honoré in Brussels in 1980 and associated with Factory Benelux during its first year.
1. Michael Nyman mozart
2. Marine Life in Reverse
3. Thick Pigeon Subway
4. Josef K Sorry for Laughing
5. Repetition A Still Reflex
6. Bill Nelson Dada Guitare
7. Paul Haig Running Away
8. Tuxedomoon Ninotchka
9. Ike Yard Night After Night
10. The Durutti Column Party
11. The Names Life by the Sea
12. Steven Brown Waltz
13. Richard Jobson Autumn
14. The French Impressionists Pick up the Rhythm
15. Isolation Ward Lamina Christus
16. Antena Camino del Sol
17. The Pale Fountains Something on my Mind
18. Mikado Par Hazard
19. Anna Domino Land of My Dreams
20. Blaine L. Reininger Mystery and Confusion
21. Devine & Statton Bizarre Love Triangle
"Outstanding compilations, sophisticated scholarship. This Crépuscule volume is both a treasury of musical originality and an epoch-defining document, the overarching tone of which is plangent, high aesthetic modernism. The Baroque overture of Michael Nyman's Mozart is matched by the looping dronescape of Bill Nelson's Dada Guitare. Such filmic urbanism, enhanced by the stark rhythm patterns, for example, of Repetition's A Still Reflex, is then transposed to a new mode by the wistful, sun-drenched female vocals of Mikado and Anna Domino. At root, the Crépuscule sensibility treated the recording, promotion and packaging of recorded music as a proudly artistic and holistic aesthetic process - a spirit here upheld by the super cool cover design by Benoît Hennebert". (The Wire, 08/2008)
"A bang up job. The package depicts a bygone era of enduring relevance, and the superb booklet is rich in historical detail, photographs and artwork" (Brainwashed, 09/2008)
Liner note by Frank Brinkhuis
Until late 1979, Belgian popular culture enjoyed a limited impact on the wider world. True, in 1963 the Singing Nun topped the US singles chart with Dominique, and fourteen years later Plastic Bertrand scored a worldwide hit with an energetic slice of parody punk, Ca Plane Pour Moi. But both were essentially novelty records, and the troubled career of Sister Luc Gabriel would ultimately end in tax wrangles and a suicide pact. Cartoon boy hero Tin Tin and troubadour Jacques Brel enjoyed worldwide renown, but most outsiders imagined they were French, while the saxophone (invented by Walloon-born Adolphe Saxe in 1840) occupied but limited space in the post-punk landscape. Only in April 1980 would the Belgian avant-garde reach a mass audience, when electro-pop trio Telex represented the nation in the Eurovision Song Contest, turning in a wry performance awarded just fourteen post-modern points.
But appearances deceive. Standing at the crossroads of Europe, Brussels boasted an alternative scene no less tuned-in as Paris or Amsterdam, and perhaps more so. New wave luminaries such as Patti Smith, Talking Heads, XTC and Magazine had enjoyed early success in the city, even if a performance by electro-rockers Suicide in June 1978 provoked the disturbance preserved on the 23 Minutes Over Brussels bootleg flexi. Public Image Limited also made their live debut in the city, at Theatre 140 in December 1978. Artists such as these inspired home-grown talent including Digital Dance, The Names, Siglo XX and Polyphonic Size, a handful of new independent labels were also poised to emerge, while live venues included the Ancienne Belgique, Beursschouwburg, and an important new multi-media arts space, Plan K.
Situated on the Rue de Manchester, Plan K was a labyrinthine former refinery built in the 1850s, six storeys high and adding up to 4,300 square metres. Many of the early musical bookings at Plan K were arranged by urbane journalist/economist Michel Duval together with Annik Honoré, then working as a bilingual secretary at the Belgian Embassy in London. Annik's relationship with Joy Division lead to the rising Factory Records band being booked to appear at the formal Plan K opening on 16 October 1979, an ambitious multi-media event headlined by celebrated addict and avant-garde writer William S. Burroughs. Although the 'rock concert' featuring Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire was billed second from bottom on the designed poster, healthy import sales of Unknown Pleasures and the Cabs' several singles on Rough Trade ensured a healthy audience of several hundred.
Plan K was soon established as a significant landmark on the European cultural circuit, and within six months of opening had hosted further concerts featuring Echo and the Bunnymen, Orange Juice, Josef K, Teardrop Explodes, Spizz Energi, Delta 5, The Slits, The Pop Group, James White/Chance, The Human League and Winston Tong. Plan K also booked a return visit by Joy Division on 17 January 1980, supported by local post-punk contenders Digital Dance. Factory's connections with Brussels were further enhanced on 26 April, when A Certain Ratio, Section 25 and Eric Random played at the venue, this time accompanied by Tony Wilson. It was at this point that Wilson, Honoré and Duval agreed to set up a new sister label, Factory Benelux, which would in turn pave the way for an entirely separate label: Les Disques du Crépuscule.
So far as records go, the legendary Shack Up by A Certain Ratio was released in August 1980, this 7" carrying a dual Factory Benelux/Les Disques du Crépuscule identity and catalogue number: FACBN 1-004. This was followed by classic singles from the Durutti Column (Lips That Would Kiss/Madeleine) in October (FACBN 2-005), and Charnel Ground/Haunted by Section 25 the following month (FACBN 3-006), when a Factory package tour also hit the Lowlands. However, any lingering confusion between Factory Benelux and Crépuscule ended after Factory director Rob Gretton wrote to the Brussels office in September to remind Duval and Honoré that Factory artists alone were to be associated with Factory Benelux, and that Crépuscule must remain entirely separate.
Issued in June 1980, highbrow fanzine Plein Soleil ('full sun') therefore counts as the very first Crépuscule manifestation, and featured articles on Factory, Cybill Shepherd and Bill Nelson as well as hip graphics. On 27 June Crépuscule also staged an ambitious hommage to Jean Cocteau at the Plan K. This lavish mixed-media event included live performances by Bill Nelson, Richard Jobson and Vini Reilly (aka The Durutti Column), all of whom would soon make records for the new label, the name of which was suggested by Honoré and translates as 'twilight'. At the same time Plan K also hosted an exhibition of Factory artifacts and Peter Saville designs.
Early traces of Les Disques du Crépuscule can also be found on two 7"s, released on the Double Dose label. The first of these, War Economy by Silent Types, thanked Crépuscule for unspecified help. The second, by Mark Beer, was originally set for release on Crépuscule as TWI 008, and when it appeared in October Love Dances Warm still sported a handsome cover by Crépuscule in-house designer Benoît Hennebert.
The first Crépuscule music product was the legendary cassette compilation From Brussels With Love, assigned the punning catalogue number TWI 007 (a deliberate James Bond reference). The tape was put together between July and October 1980 by Duval, Honoré and Belgian new music composer Wim Mertens, and appeared in November. Packaged in a clear PVC pouch, also containing an attractive 16-page illustrated booklet featuring works by Hennebert and Jean François Octave, TWI 007 stood out as exotic. An eclectic mix of contributions from well known and less well known artists - John Foxx, Richard Jobson, Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman, Gilbert & Lewis, Der Plan, Durutti Column, Brian Eno - in it's own way TWI 007 was as radical as punk, and drew lavish praise from NME writer Paul Morley: "From Brussels With Love is the reminder -without really trying, without being obvious- that pop is modern poetry, is the sharpest, shiniest collection of experiences, is always something new." With its very first release, Les Disques du Crépuscule had scored a bulls-eye.
The first dedicated Crépuscule vinyl came in January 1981. Mozart was a 7" single (TWI 009) featuring three short pieces by the then still relatively unknown Michael Nyman, produced by David Cunningham and previously released as In Re Don Giovanni on his own Piano label the previous year. This was swiftly followed by A Still Reflex by London cold wavers Repetition (TWI 012), Rooms With Brittle Views by Bill Nelson (TWI 013), Sluggin' Fer Jesus by Cabaret Voltaire (TWI 018, on 12"), Sorry For Laughing by Josef K (TWI 023) and Subliminal by Eric Random (TWI 029). The first album, Hommages by Gavin Bryars (TWI 027) arrived only in November, produced by Wim Mertens and sleeved by Marc Borgers.
As well as Factory, the label also forged links with other leading UK indies, including Postcard, New Hormones and Rough Trade. Despite the eclectic nature of the expanding, cosmopolitan catalogue, Crépuscule retained a distinctive boutique brand identity, due in large part to Hennebert's stunning original sleeve and poster designs. The exceptional debut single Life In Reverse by Marine (TWI 024) was the first release by a Belgian artist, and this faith was rewarded by healthy sales in the UK, with TWI 024 shifting some 4,000 copies and even reaching #6 on the NME indie singles chart in April.
International exchange and cultural cross-pollination was high on Crépuscule's not-for-profit (ASBL) agenda, a fact much in evidence by the example of Marine supporting Josef K and Orange Juice at Plan K on 31 December 1980, and Josef K appropriating their breathless punk-funk chops for their swansong single. The Missionary (TWI 055). Meanwhile German female band Malaria! opened their account with How Do You Like My New Dog? (TWI 033) at the end of the year, as did American artists Ike Yard (Night After Night, TWI 039) and Thick Pigeon (Subway, TWI 038).
During 1981 Crépuscule also dabbled in book and video production, as well as song publishing (Bruits Essentiels) and live events, including a return visit by Josef K on 8 April, a New Hormones package with Ludus and Eric Random on 21 April, and a legendary show by New Order and Malaria! at the Ancienne Belgique on 15 May. Less successful was a Crépuscule showcase staged at plush London venue Heaven on 13 July, featuring Repetition, Marine, Eric Random, Richard Jobson and Swamp Children, and dubbed 'hell' by some of the participants. Indeed Marine split in half soon afterwards, with the dissident members forming Allez Allez and signing with Virgin. Of these early 'Risques Du Crépuscule', Jobson's book of poetry, A Man For All Seasons (TWI 030), remains one of the rarest Crépuscule artefacts, as does an inexplicable badge (TWI 032), demanding Halte a l'inceste.
Excellent original graphic design contributed very much to the label's reputation, courtesy of Claude Stassart, Marc Borgers and Jean François Octave. Especially attractive were those by Benoît Hennebert, also a Crépuscule director, and the genius responsible for the stunning artwork of two classic compilations released in November and December. Deluxe double set The Fruit Of The Original Sin (TWI 035) combined music and spoken word from W.S. Burroughs, Marine, Paul Haig, Marguerite Duras, Durutti Column, Winston Tong and others, while Chantons Noel: Ghosts Of Christmas Past (TWI 058) offered ironic festive ditties by the expanding international roster.
Assembled by Michel Duval, the Crépuscule Class of '82 remains one of the brightest in terms of variety and quality. Thick Pigeon, Paul Haig, Tuxedomoon, Antena, The Names, Soft Verdict (aka Wim Mertens), The French Impressionists and Mikado all made memorable records. Former Josef K frontman Haig even relocated from Edinburgh to Brussels for two months of writing and recording, while Antena decamped from Paris, releasing the sublime Camino Del Sol (TWI 114) in September. Haig not only recorded three singles (Running Away, Justice and Blue For You), but also cut six swing standards with a band of season jazz veterans, although the resulting ep Swing in '82 (TWI 094) was shelved for several years. At the opposite end of the spectrum was an oblique single, Deutsche Angst, by New York artist Lawrence Weiner (TWI 059).
During 1982 Crépuscule also promoted two fascinating package tours. The first, Dialogue North-South, traversed Holland, Belgium and France in February 1982, ending in London, with The Names, The Durutti Column, Marine, Richard Jobson, Paul Haig, Tuxedomoon, Antena and others. The ambitious tour ended in London with a show by The Names and Marine at the Venue, after which The Names became only the second Belgian band to record a Peel session (after Marine/Allez Allez). A cassette souvenir (Some Of The Interesting Things You'll See On A Long Distance Flight) was later expanded for CD, and features a facsimile of the attractive tour booklet.
Dialogue North-South was arranged by Katalin (Katy) Kolosy, who effectively took over Annik Honoré's role at Crépuscule, and also managed Tuxedomoon. As well as the classic singles Ninotchka, Time To Lose and The Cage, Crépuscule would also release Tuxedomoon's soundtrack album Divine, and a raft of solo projects by TM members, beginning with Blaine L. Reininger's Broken Fingers (TWI 068). The Names and Malaria! also released albums in the summer of 1982 (Swimming (TWI 065) and Emotion (TWI 077) respectively), although the first poetry album by Richard Jobson (An Afternoon In Company, TWI 080) was delayed for some considerable time.
A second, shorter Continental tour titled Move Back - Bite Harder traversed Belgium in October, featuring Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo, Tuxedomoon, Antena, The Pale Fountains and Isolation Ward. Although the mooted cassette souvenir remained unreleased, extended improvised pieces by Cabaret Voltaire/Tuxedomoon and 23 Skidoo later appeared as bonus tracks on CD reissues. Skidoo's participation coincided with the released of their uncompromising live album The Culling Is Coming on Crépuscule, numbered TWI 123, and so extreme that the group found it hard to find another record deal.
Crépuscule's first and only video compilation, the excellent Umbrellas In The Sun (TWI 099), appeared in July 1982. Co-produced by Image Video, the cassette included early promo clips by Paul Haig, Antena, Malaria!, Richard Jobson, Soft Verdict, Marine Tuxedomoon and others, as well as a series of humorous linking 'inbetweens'. It's worth noting that the clips produced by Image were superior both in terms of technical quality and execution to those made by Factory's much-vaunted video wing Ikon, and belied their shoestring budgets.
Brussels being an international crossroads, it was only natural that Crépuscule itself looked to spread its tentacles abroad. In 1982 no less than three foreign operations were launched: Crépuscule Section FranÁaise, Operation Twilight (UK) and Crépuscule America. All proved short lived, with the Stateside label, run by Factory US representative Michael Shamberg issuing only one record: Paul Haig's Running Away. A live album by The Fall, recorded in the USA, failed to appear.
Crépuscule's very own French connection produced some unique records. Managed by Serge Marcillaud via Radical Records, Section FranÁaise issued Rive Gauche by the new line-up of Marine, the compilation album A Day In October, and the haunting Lamina Christus by Isolation Ward, an undervalued Brussels cold wave band. Oddly the French language version of Like the Others (Comme Les Autres) by Winston Tong appeared on a completely different label, Madrigal. Overall, however, the Section FranÁaise catalogue was a little weak, and sold short by inferior graphic design.
Far more interesting was Operation Twilight, the associate UK label set up by Pale Fountains manager Patrick Moore (aka Philip Hoare) and part-financed by Rough Trade distribution. The first release was Divine by Tuxedomoon in May 1982, a score commissioned by noted choreographer Maurice Bejart for a ballet based on Greta Garbo, and which spawned the single Ninotchka. Divine was followed by 7" singles from Paul Haig, Antena, the Pale Fountains and Mikado, all of which were also released by Crépuscule on 12" format with different artwork and extra tracks. Both Twilight and Crépuscule issued The Culling Is Coming by 23 Skidoo, although the lavish pantone artwork for the UK edition makes it the more desirable artefact.
Apart from a set of badges, Operation Twilight issued three records that have no Belgian counterpart. The 12" ep Eraserhead by Ralph Dorper combined two existing German singles, and gave little clue of his future direction with pop sophisticates Propaganda. The Lost Jockey, whose Professor Slack ep appeared on 10" format, also prefigured the ZTT label, and featured composer Andrew Poppy. The third single was a Christmas 7" shared by the French Impressionists and Thick Pigeon, and echoed the festive albums issued by Crépuscule. Two further 45s were announced but not released: Justice by Paul Haig, and City Sleeps by April Showers. After a year brave Patrick Moore had run out of funds.
Also worth noting is Crépuscule Au Japon, set up early 1983 in association with Shinseido Sirius. Although this arrangement seldom produced exclusive recordings, it did generate a substantial income stream and many attractive special editions, including the double compilation Coincidence Vs. Fate, and the large format coffee table book of the same name, featuring artist profiles, creative writing and a feast of attractive graphics. The book coincided with a label package tour of Japan in May 1985, featuring Anna Domino, Wim Mertens, Paul Haig, Alan Rankine, Steven Brown and Blaine L. Reininger. An earlier Japan package in April 1984 offered Mikado, Durutti Column and Winston Tong/Niki Mono, extracts from which were released on video.
To return to 1983, in March Crépuscule signed a licensing and development deal with hip UK major Island Records. The first beneficiaries were the two most overtly commercial acts on Crépuscule, Paul Haig and Antena. As a result Haig was able to record his debut album Rhythm of Life (TWI 188) in New York with producer Alex Sadkin, and three pop singles (Heaven Sent, Never Give Up and Justice) were aimed squarely at the pop charts. However these failed to break through into the mainstream, and although Rhythm Of Life stands today as a fine electro/dance album, back in 1983 many found it too radical a departure from Haig's post-punk past with Josef K. Antena too failed to break through with Be-Pop (TWI 183), and would soon leave Crépuscule for Phonogram.
Tuxedomoon should have recorded an album under the Island deal, but ultimately the project foundered, and Blaine L. Reininger temporarily left the band. Funk-dance singles by Winston Tong and James Cuts also betray the influence of Island, whose music publishing wing also signed deals with Factory artists Quando Quango and The Wake at this time. However the Island experiment was not a success, and by the autumn of 1984 the deal had faltered.
Crépuscule itself released several important records in 1983, including single The Cage by Tuxedomoon (TWI 142), then billed as their last record, mini album The Serpent in Quicksilver by Harold Budd (TWI 083), the Virginia Astley compilation Promise Nothing (TWI 194), and Struggle for Pleasure (TWI 189) by Soft Verdict (aka Wim Mertens), featuring his celebrated piano piece Close Cover. Canadian-born artist Anna Domino also signed to the label, recording the mini album East & West (TWI 187). Other visiting North American artists were introduced by Michael Shamberg, projects including Symphony No. 3 (Gloria) by Glenn Branca (TWI 151) and Yo! by Konk (TWI 143), a band then little known outside New York.
The label also released two cassettes: Winston Tong's spoken word epic Like The Others (TWI 045), and Chicago 82 - A Dip In The Lake (TWI 116), a report by Wim Mertens on the 1982 Chicago New Music Festival, featuring music and interviews with Glenn Branca, John Cage, Peter Gordon, Meridith Monk, Harold Budd and others. Crépuscule also recorded significant albums by Steven Brown (Music for Solo Piano) and Blaine L. Reininger (Night Air), although these were delayed until 1984 and only then released on an associated label run by Katy Kolosy, Another Side. Stylish movie music covers compilation Moving Soundtracks (TWI 112) was not even released at all, while the 1983 Christmas album came not from Crépuscule but from Factory Benelux, and was hardly very festive.
1984 proved a transitional year for Crépuscule. With the Island deal still live, Michel Duval formed a new Warners-funded indie superlabel, Blanco Y Negro, together with Geoff Travis (Rough Trade) and Mike Alway (Cherry Red). Duval proposed Anna Domino and delivered Berntholer, but departed the project at an early stage. Meanwhile Island declined to release the second album recorded by Paul Haig, and back in Brussels several excellent records cut for Crépuscule were instead released on affiliate Another Side, including albums by Steven Brown, Blaine L. Reininger and Arthur Russell, and the ep Completement Nue Au Soleil by Ludus, the cult Manchester band brought to Crépuscule by Benoît Hennebert.
A further distraction from the business of making records came in the form of Interferences, a stylish café/bar ('centre culturel') at 1 Rue de la Tete d'Or (Guldenhoofdstraat), located just off the Grand Place, which opened on 22 December 1983 as Crépuscule's answer to The Haçienda. The sober, linear interior was designed by Hennebert, an upper floor housed the Crépuscule office, and intimate live shows included Winston Tong, Mikado, Richard Jobson, Berntholer, Wim Mertens, Blaine Reininger and Mikel Rouse, Anna Domino and Billy Mackenzie. For a while the chef at the self-styled brasserie cosmopolite was none other than Philippe Auclair, who would also record for Crépuscule as the Border Boys and the Arcadians, and later found wider success as Louis Philippe. The Interference brand name was also applied to a short-lived sub-label, which released dance 12"s by Paul Haig and Konk. Indeed bar takings were often raided to fund studio costs, and the financially precarious Interferences venture was eventually sold off in 1986/87, although the decals remained on the windows long after.
These several diversions meant that relatively few major Crépuscule releases appeared in 1984. However the schedule did include The Only Truth (TWI 390), Paul Haig's final Island-era single produced by Bernard Sumner (New Order) and Donald Johnson (A Certain Ratio), Theoretical China by Winston Tong (TWI 310), the promising East & West by Anna Domino, and Maximizing the Audience (TWI 480), Wim Mertens' soundtrack for The Power of Theatrical Madness by Jan Fabre, and the first of his records to drop the Soft Verdict moniker.
Two sidelines from 1984 should also be mentioned in passing. LAYLAH Antirecords was an early home to industrial acts like Coil, Current 93, Nurse With Wound, Laibach and The Hafler Trio, although funding of Marc Monin's singular label quickly passed from Crépuscule to distributor Himalaya. Fashion house Danaqué also marketed a Crépuscule clothing range designed by Sandrina D'Haeyere (and part financed by Factory), although the 'explosive' couture experiment proved short-lived.
1985 marked the beginning of a move towards a new, more sophisticated and mainstream direction for Crépuscule, with artists such as Anna Domino, Paul Haig, Kid Montana and a returning Isabelle Antena moving to the foreground, and the use of polished pop producers such as Marc Moulin (Telex) and Alan Rankine (the Associates), the latter notably on the Winston Tong album Theoretically Chinese (TWI 549). The avant-garde remained well represented by the likes of Richard Jobson, Steven Brown, Evan Lurie and Wim Mertens (along with the latter's Lome Arme imprint), while principal designers Hennebert and Joel van Audenhaege ensured that Crépuscule remained the best-dressed label in Europe next to original mentor Factory. However, the soundtrack and the story of this successful re-invention is best examined on a separate collection, since Michel Duval continued to run Crépuscule in various forms and locations until 2006. In 2013 the imprint was revived by former Crépuscule employee James Nice.
Frank's TWI/FBN website http://home.kpn.nl/frankbrio/.