Robert Dale’s artist recommendation: “For Belgian Fog, the biggest inspiration really comes from Flemish chanteur Jacques Brel. Brel voiced the struggles of very disparate people through characters he created as a way to commentate on Western culture and the general Weltanschauung of his time(1950s and 60s). The realism and emotion he was able to convey just fascinates me and the variety of characters and issues he worked with really inspires me. The genre he worked in demanded fairly intricate orchestral arrangements and I have no doubt he would be making avant-art-pop if he were a young man alive today.
Brel was a whimsical, flighty, romantic, charismatic and brilliant individual who quit his job at a cardboard factory against his family’s wishes to move to Paris to live a rather Bohemian lifestyle and pursue the art which he felt fulfilled him the most. When he began his musical career, his work was mediocre at best and his performances were terribly dull as he sat sedately strumming the classical guitar in front of him. He was told to ditch the guitar and stand as he performed which opened a new world for him and in all probability affected his songwriting.
He wrote primarily using his guitar and later collaborated with two other fellows to work out the arrangements and production. This team churned out song after song of absolute inimitability and his work began to draw opera-houses full of fans who would watch in amazement at his emotionally acrobatic display. He stopped abruptly in the late 60s out of sheer exhaustion. He has a quote that goes something like, “When I started out, no one liked my music and they wanted me to stop, but now, I want to stop and they tell me I mustn’t.”
Watching his performances is the absolute best way to experience his music. The emotional intensity, be it beauty, pain, humor, etc. is magnified immensely with his exaggerated gestures and facial expressions. We think of actors suffering from trying to feel the necessary emotions for a given scene, but the emotional toll it must have taken on Brel to get into character is difficult to understand.”
New to Jacques Brel? Robert suggests you start here: “Probably the best album he ever released was Ces Gens-La, and for non-French speakers like myself, I recommend looking up videos of his performances with subtitles on YouTube.”
About our guest author, Robert Dale: LA native Robert Dale has been in several bands, but his latest focus lies with his solo project, Belgian Fog. Beautifully blending electronic and lo-fi elements, his music is mixed to evenly blend his pastiche pop arrangements and his strong vocal presence. His songs perfectly combine ’80s synth and Morrisey’s croon and have recently attracted John Goodmanson, who has worked with Los Campesions and Death Cab For Cutie and is now mixing Belgian Fog songs. Robert now writes, records and produces from his home studio in his Seattle residence.