The Brussels based Club Ancienne Belgique is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2004.
When it comes to bringing contemporary Indie-, Club- and Popmusic to the stage, this venue is Brussels' most relevant adress, especially for the city's young, Flemish community. When the artistic director of the club, Kurt Overbergh, started to plan activities for their anniversary, he immediately adressed Arne van Petegem aka Styrofoam, whose musical career he's been watching closely since the very beginning. They initially came up with the idea of a special show at Ancienne Belgique which Arne was supposed to host, but as the venue not only provides a big concert hall and a small club, but a studio as well, they pushed their idea a bit further. The people at AB decided to provide Arne with the opportunity to produce parts of his next album at the AB studio and fly in and accomodate a suitable number of musical guests.
Arne then presented Overbergh with a list of musicians he wanted to work with.
He naturally made his choices based on musical compatibilities. Not only that, but practically everyone he invited to take part had been in touch with Arne in some way or another already and consequently accepted the invitation. Styrofoam started to produce basic tracks, tailoring them to what he thought was suitable for the musicians he had in mind. He then send a selection of three to four instrumentals to his fellow musicians to choose from. To his surprise, everyone went for the track that was initially meant for them.
If one listens to "Nothing's Lost" as a whole, the album never appears to be a loose, compilation style collection of songs though. On the contrary, this definitely is Styrofoam's most accomplished effort to date. Styrofoam's gentle hand as both a writer, producer and voice - he sings on half of the album's songs himself - is as present as it is subtle.
The realisation of the recordings took many different routes. Markus Acher (Lali Puna/The Notwist) contributed guitar tracks for "Misguided" and "Make It Mine" right before a show he played with Lali Puna in april 2004 at Ancienne Belgique. The connection between both is of course obviously Morr Music, but Styrofoam has also acted as an interim Notwist member on their 2003 US and European tours. Together with Arne Markus also managed to get Lali Puna singer Valerie Trebeljahr involved. After just a tiny bit of reluctance (because she hadn't been rehearsing anything for this project), she sang the song's chorus on the spot. Anticon artist Alias, who has been supporting Lali Puna on their European tour this spring, rounded things off for "Misguided", providing one of his rare raps. Taking advantage of a few days off, Alias stayed in Brussels a bit longer to provide more beats for "Couches In Alleys" and "Make It Mine".
Only a day later, Ben Gibbard of The Postal Service/Death Cab For Cutie flew in from Seattle to join Arne and Brendon, as Alias is known to his friends. They started to develop four of Arne's initial tracks into fully fledged compositions.
Ben, Brendon and Arne set up a production space in a huge dis-used backstage room right next to the recording studio and started playing around with the instruments on hand (grand piano, drum set, guitars, MPC, some effects gadgets and a couple of powerbooks, vocal microphone). Every now and then they would get Stef Van Alsenoy, the studio's technician, to record some of these performances. After three days of playing around like this Arne went home with a suitcase full of raw audio material to further develop, arrange and mix at his home studio.
With Andrew Kenny from American Analogue Set, the production process went completely virtual. Arne (Brussels) and Kenny (NYC) logged on to iChat regularly to swap files and to discuss the steps to be taken to complete their song "Front To Back". This song might arguably be the most outstanding song on "Nothing's Lost", because it clearly goes beyond what one might have expected from both Arne and Kenny. Unlike his usual, subtle vocal delivery, Kenny went for an almost R'n'B style vocal delivery in a very expressive and catchy falsetto, while Arne provides a mildly broken beat, sprinkling tiny acid (as in 303) licks all over the place.
Last but not least Styrofoam asked Bent van Looy, singer of the hugely successful Belgian band Das Pop into the studio. Their collaboration is by far the most danceable contribution to this album. The cool, bubblegum pop feeling of this song is enhanced by a blatant, slightly retro octave bassline as well as the additional vocals of japanese singer Miki, whom Bent brought into the studio spontaneously. He met her the night before while she was performing live on stage with Munk, a neo funk punk band releasing on Gomma Records. Van Looy liked it so much that he just had to bring her along to the Das Pop studio. And it definitely paid!
On "Nothing's Lost" Styrofoam definitely expands what he started with his last album "I'm What's There To Show That Something's Missing". His self-conception comprises not only the ever explorative bedroom producer image, but also the live musician, the singer, the songwriter and the composer. And the networker! Styrofoam has definitely entered the realm of pop beyond any prefixes. Nothing's lost, though! This is a win win! For Styrofoam and everyone involved, for the Ancienne Belgique and last but not least: for you!