Various Artists - Rockhal

35 songs
145:30 minutes

Browsing the regular and online media, not only insiders know that there is a lot of controversy around the "Centre pour Musiques Amplifiées", the so-called "Rockhal". After publicising the now already cancelled Charles Aznavour gig as the first sign of life, then getting rid (because of that scandal?) of director Roger Hamen, and finally in May starting to update their website after scathing criticism from a much read weekly newspaper. The Rockhal hasn't opened its doors yet, but many people see in it already a new Anti-Christ. That things are not always as negative as they may seem, can be shown by the Rockhal compilation CD, featuring three discs of local musicians and bands. Although there are few unreleased songs, the main goal was apparently to present Luxembourg's music scene at the Midem in Cannes. The compilation is not for sale, but can be asked for free at the Rockhal website. Good luck trying it, because the bureaucrats at the Rockhal never answered to the DisAgreement request, so thanks here to Unki for organising the box-set.

The compilation is subdivided into musical categories, with the first disc starting with eight 'alternative rock' songs. This makes hardly sense, once you see which bands are put into which drawer, but let's not digress. Blue Room open the compilation with a nice but harmless alternative song. Couchgrass continue with Ode To Kim from their CD, a nice dark tale that hopefully takes the fun image out of this young band. Lafa Connected are the first true highlight, with the former vocalist of Tiger Fernandes and the former dEFDUMp drummer. Great modern alternative rock with this underground American touch that's still so hard to find in Europe. Raftside delivers his ubiquitous Cardiac Palpitation. He's one of the very few artists who sounds better in the studio than live, so it's high time for him to give up his one-man-show and finally get a proper backing band. Tiger Fernandes are next, good as always, but futile, considering the band is no longer around. Torpid's long Belaxt is again a prime example of how innovative a local band can sound, though they are no longer local, actually living in Brussels. Toxkäpp are certainly not an alternative band, but Zréck an d'Natur not only surprises with an intelligent message, but also adds cool ragtime arrangements to their ska sound. Zapzoo close the first part with a short African-influenced rock song, dominated by Serge Tonnar's impressive voice.

We continue with a short 'electro' part… As only recently an electro compilation has been released, I don't see the sense of these five tracks, especially as only two of them are actual electro music. Let's start with C.A.T.Z., sounding like drumless postrock, very mellow with soothing melodica sounds. Nice enough, but absolutely unarousing. Chief Mart's offer a newly recorded version of their rock-est song Rotundity. Great composition, but certainly anything but electro. Lahkor settles between minimalism and ambient, with a strangely appealing charm. Moussevingt's Igloo has only been released on a rare CD-single, and is another highlight. The three-piece starts to become more accessible lately, but their smart electro pop still asks a lot of concentration and determination from the audience. Reward is certain! The first disc ends with Veste, more rhythmic electro music, somewhere between experimental and danceable, ok alright, but in my eyes the weakest track so far. The first hour was mostly faultless, and it had better be so, because the next disc will make you live through a bad sonic nightmare.

And it doesn't begin too bad either. Daniel Balthasar, member of Blue Room, plays melancholic 'singer songwriter' music, which brings us to the featured genre. Raquel Barreira is a talented artist, but her mostly acoustic Portuguese folk music is neither rock nor amplified music and therefore shouldn't be on this album. Legotrip is Zap Zoo's Serge Tonnar more or less solo, playing the conscience of Luxembourg. Very acidly cynical lyrics that touch rich Luxembourg where it hurts most. Lo-Fi is the more or less solo project by the Metro and former L'Ego vocalist, performing here an astoundingly sad and moving composition. Mack Murphy & The Inmates get a lot of features in certain local medias, but I still maintain that their pathetic take at the darker side of New Romanticism is sounding fake. What else can you expect from an artist who has been street punk, skinhead, hobo and now romantic in his still young career? Claudine Muno is a singer / songwriter / author / playwright / journalist, but maybe she had better concentrate on one or two of these occupations. Her music is too harmless, located somewhere between Heather Nova and Sheryl Crow, certainly well done, but without the proper impact. Maggie Parke, former vocalist of pop atrocity Parc Café, is probably only on this compilation because of the influence of her husband Gast Waltzing. Her contribution is by far the worst on this compilation. You can't play Eighties pop rock cheaper than this, even if you try hard. The guitars have no power, her voice no expression, the songwriting is boring: she should leave the scene to the younger people.

The 'pop' part is the worst on the compilation, with not a single convincing track. Low Density Corporation were a really cool avant pop band back when they won the Emergenza, but their take on the more commercial side of pop has lost them a lot of charisma, especially the Ofra Haza like backing vocals are irritating. Michael Shepherd Band is a typical local phenomenon. When a Christian Berg can call himself Chris Birch, why shouldn't a Michel Schäfer call himself Michael Shepherd? Apart that they are more rock than pop, it's totally rooted in the Seventies, ok for people who still think Bob Seger is cool. Definitely not my cup of tea. Nazz Nazz were truly great when they released their vinyl debut Stay Aboard in the late Eighties, but since Thierry Van Verweke has become a film star, it all sounds more like his old pals writing sub-par blues rock, with Thierry providing the vocals between songs. Only a shadow of their past. Sonic Season's mellow folk pop is annoying, has no power, which can also be said about the following T42, who just split up, but don't worry, some of their members will continue as Dream Catcher (so why not feature them instead on this CD?). In my eyes, this legendary "school band turned folk pop local heroes" were always too heavily inspired by the likes of the Waterboys, and had too much of a mellow romantic image. Anyway, a band that sells its latest farewell CD with an added four bottles of beer is more than self-explanatory: their music can only be listened to while drunk. I wanna rock, damn it! The Gentles should thank Maggie Parke, otherwise their self-righteous pedagogical soft hiphop would have been the worst track on the compilation. This "don't drive drunk" tutorial is so patronizing I wouldn't be surprised it obtained the adverse effect of what it actually intends. Thorunn, Icelandic ice queen from Planet RTL, ends the second disc with her hit Complicated, a second-rate Kylie Minogue song that somehow has a certain charm, probably also due to Miss Thorunn's undeniable good looks.

The last disc is dedicated to 'rock' music, whatever that means. In this case: hardcore, punk, death metal, noise and gothic, and by far the best disc in the compilation, even though it's only half the length of the two preceding ones. dEFDUMp start with Lament Manifest, proving the world why they are Luxembourg's best export. Emotional hardcore far away from genre clichés, perfectly produced, with four individuals who all know what they do on their instruments: Felix's melodic bass, Marc's warm guitar and Usel's varied vocals are beyond any criticism. Where Raquel Barreira did her Portuguese folklore, death metal veterans Desdemonia aim at their own culture with their well known rendition of Zu Arel op der Knippchen. Hilarious, but it's high time we heard something new from these procrastinators. Jazz core upstarts Eyston come with a track from their new split-CD with Actarus, showing that they have developed since their debut demo CD, playing a crazy kind of stop-and-go music that is perfect to irritate people who think music has to have a straight line. The vocals shared by all three members adds to the schizoid dimension of their music. Kitshickers offer a track from their last album. People who don't like Gilles' admittedly not too great vocals should keep the band in mind nonetheless, because now with an all new rhythm section and a songwriting tending more to instrumental noise music, they have a definitely more mature face now. Last Millennium Suckers, local death punk patent holders, are featured with Black & Grey, a song we all know from the In Defence Of Rock compilation. It's one of their better songs, hinting at early Eighties Californian dark punk, with Jenny always sounding more like the Nico of punk. Lecter MD, the "all star band" featured by former members of d'Rotzbouwen and Skol, are possibly not everybody's taste, but their shamelessly sincere emo rock has more balls than most likewise popular bands. Is It Worth is unabashedly melodic, a great tune. Pronoian Made are the only band on this last disc I absolutely don't like. First of all I am not a gothic fan, and second they don't add any new elements to this mostly stale genre. Weird factoid: their vocalist was a founding member of dEFDUMp, back then only called Dump. Spyglass end the compilation with their dynamic take of emo core, with German lyrics.

I won't give this compilation a rating. You don't have to pay for it, so it's certainly not too expensive. Is it representative? With 200 active bands in Luxembourg, 35 can give you a nice impression, but there are always lacks, which is understandable. I don't like the way they subdivided everything into genres, but as the compilation has a promotional character, that's understandable too. The music would have fitted on two discs, but three just looks more majestic, I guess. Try to get a copy of this compilation, there are a few interesting discoveries, a lot of good material you have already heard on previous releases, and also a lot of bands that you will be warned about in the future not to encounter them on stage. Now let's just hope that the Rockhal itself will give local bands a similar support in the future.

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