Written by Ilja Bracke
With releases by a young group of very interesting “jazz cats” (check out the Lefto Presents Jazz Cats compilations for a nice overview), the Belgian label Sdban (under the Sdban Ultra moniker) has been pushing young talent over the last few years and are not planning on stopping any time soon. In this article, we reflect on what started it all and take a look at what they have in store for us in 2023 by highlighting some of the recent and upcoming releases on the label.
Forgotten gems from the past
The story of the Belgian label began almost ten years ago with the impressive record collection of label boss Stefaan 'Sdban' Vandenberghe (also known as T-Quest) at its core. While traveling around the world, he noticed many underrated Belgian records, (mostly b-sides and library music cuts) gathering dust in often overlooked bins of record stores all around. Records that had been released in the 60s, 70s, and 80s without a proper promotion or distribution plan and therefore weren’t very well known. However, because of the undisputed quality of the material he encountered, he decided to take matters into his own hands, follow his gut feeling and start a label in order to find a new audience for these forgotten pieces of Belgian music history.
Funky Chicken: Belgian Grooves From The '70s
And that is how Funky Chicken, the first ever Sdban release, was born and became an instant hit. It remains a true classic for rare groove lovers all over the world. It included liner notes and some info about the scene (if you could even call it that) at the time. In a similar way, Sdban started shining a light on certain overlooked sounds and scenes of Belgian musical history. With Funky Chimes, Discophilia Belgica, Harde Smart, Utopic Cities, etc.., they released a whole range of interesting compilations that have all been favorites among rare groove enthusiasts, diggers, DJs, and jazz lovers all over the globe, and to this day the label remains a mainstay for high-quality reissues (check out Raphael - Stop, Look Listen or Solis Lacus - Solis Lacus) and compilations. The next release on Sdban Records this year is called Hip Holland Hip (to be released on June 16) and will showcase the swingin’ Dutch jazz scene from the 50s and 60s. There’s also a Belgian Soundtrack compilation coming up this year and a second edition of Harde Smart.
The New Wave of Belgian Jazz
After a couple of years of reissuing gems from the past, Stefaan noticed that a burgeoning contemporary jazz scene was growing in Belgium. "The new wave of Belgian Jazz” was a term the media used to describe an ambitious group of young Belgian bands and musicians and because Stefaan wanted to avoid the mistakes of the 60s and 70s (a lack of promo and bad distribution), he decided to start the Sdban Ultra label. The intention was to give these artists a proper platform and to make their music heard by a wider audience. STUFF., Black Flower, De Beren Gieren, and ECHT! are the most well-known acts on Sdban Ultra but to this day the label strives to be a cutting-edge and always fresh home for young talent operating on the fringes of contemporary jazz, grooves, electronic, and world music.
A Golden Year for Sdban Ultra
Since 2023 is so promising on the Sdban Ultra label, let’s dive into some recent (or upcoming) releases from the Sdban Ultra label:
Dishwasher_ - Dishwasher_
Dishwasher_ are the latest disciples of yet another new wave of talent in the fertile Belgian groove and jazz scene. It would, however, be a shame to limit them to the constraints of any given musical style. Ever since their formation in 2019, the Ghent-based trio has been experimenting with all possible genres to create a contemporary sound they can now rightfully call their own. With their self-titled debut album, to be released in April 2023, they are closing off an impressive first chapter, delivering a unique and diverse, yet coherent collection of groove-driven cuts.
While labeling Dishwasher_ as a jazz band wouldn’t do them enough justice, it is a fact that improvisation and a certain free approach turn out to be key in the creation and performance process of the album’s tracks. Werend, Louise, and Arno specifically aim to capture their live energy and synergy on the album by experimenting with structures and textures, playing with song lengths, and implementing influences from various other styles — electronic music in the first place, but as well as traces from (Middle-)Eastern and Balkan music, next to dance, hip-hop and even metal.
KAU - EP I & II
(Record Store Day release)
(Released on April 22)
KAU (previously known as KAU trio.) is an instrumental project based in Brussels consisting of André Breidlid (drums), Matteo Genovese (bass) & Jan Janzen (keys). Representing various European backgrounds, their coming together is in the spirit of the city they grew up in.
Taking inspiration from jazz, they create a head-bobbing atmosphere using bassy beats and catchy melodies. By implementing acoustic instruments, the trio stays true to an organic and rich sound, granting themselves the liberty for improvisation & spontaneous happenings. Influenced by artists like BADBADNOTGOOD & Christian Scott, their music is contemporary, powerful, and audacious.
For this year’s Record Store Day, Sdban Is teaming up with KAU (trio.) and will exclusively re-release their latest EPs as RSD-exclusive releases. II & III are both very unique pieces of music and are the perfect introduction to what we have in store with KAU this year. In September ‘23 Sdban will release their stunning debut album.
ECHT! - Sink-Along
(to be released on May 5)
Futuristic Brussels based four-piece ECHT! are set to release their sophomore album ‘Sink-Along’ on May 5th. Receiving critical acclaim from the likes of Gilles Peterson (BBC Radio 6 Music) and Mixmag for their debut release ‘INWANE’ (2021), ECHT! takes the best of Jonwayne, DJ Rashad, J Dilla, Ivy Lab, Tsuruda, and Aphex Twin, resulting in an unrivaled sound.
In a society geared almost exclusively toward the technological, ECHT! forges a different path, one that instead replaces the mechanical with the human. At the heart of their creative process made up of actual skin and bone, the influences of trap, bass music, jazz, and hip-hop burst forth through their expert playing of instruments.
schroothoop - MACADAM
Belgian junk jazz trio schroothoop (which translates as ‘junk yard’) brings together multi-instrumentalists Rik Staelens (wind & string instruments), Timo Vantyghem (bass & thumb piano), and Margo Maex (percussion). Their new album called ‘MACADAM’ will be out April 7 via Sdban Records, home of many strongholds in the lively contemporary Belgian jazz and groove scene.
On their second album, released on April 7, schroothoop explores the vast sounds of discarded objects found on the macadam streets of Brussels. Wooden crates turn into guitars and lyres. Scrap metal becomes a thumb piano, a cimbalom, or percussion bells. Their compelling collection of semi-improvised songs is born out of several fruitful residencies and live performances during which Margo Maex, Rik Staelens, and Timo Vantyghem dive deeper into the possibilities and unique timbres of their DIY instruments.
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