TVD Radar: Made
To Measure Vol.1,
underground 80s comp from Crammed Discs in stores now

VIA PRESS RELEASE | To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the Crammed Discs label will be releasing new albums as well as remastered vinyl reissues of the series early classics, starting with the inaugural volume Made to Measure Vol.1 featuring music by Minimal Compact, Benjamin Lew, Aksak Maboul, and Tuxedomoon.

Originally released in 1984, the inaugural volume of the series included works commissioned as soundtracks for dance and theatre performances, films and a fashion show. The album offers both a glimpse into unusual aspects of these four artists’ work, and a testimony of the buzzing activity in what was becoming a close-knit community of musicians revolving around Crammed Discs’ Brussels headquarters, which spawned many collaborations (some of which are mentioned below).

Inaugurated in 1984, Crammed’s Made to Measure composers’ series set out to chart a map of some of the most interesting instrumental music of the era. Thirty-five albums came out during the series’ first decade, harbouring a great variety of inventive musical adventures which often weaved aspects of neoclassical/chamber music, ambient, electronica, minimalism, experimental avant-rock, soundscape creation and more.

The series christened “Made To Measure” as it was meant to host music which had or could have been made to measure as a soundtrack for other art forms (film, theatre, dance, video). Although only a moderate portion of the series’ releases was actually created for soundtracks (most notably, John Lurie’s original music for Jim Jarmusch’s two breakthrough movies), the intersections with other artistic domains turned out to be numerous: Made To Measure’s contributing musicians collaborated with renowned filmmakers (Wim Wenders, Bernardo Bertolucci, Tom Tykwer, Jarmusch) choreographers (Maurice Béjart, Karole Armitage, Régine Chopinot, Philippe Découflé), fashion designers (Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons) and more.

The quality and diversity of the releases, as well as the trademark unified visual presentation (generally using pre-existing works of art as cover illustrations) turned Made To Measure into an emblematic collection which enjoys significant cult status to this day, and served as a source of inspiration for successive generations of fans and artists. After a slumber which lasted over twenty years, Made To Measure is reactivated in 2021 with new releases and remastered reissues of key albums originally released in the ‘80s.

Minimal Compact: Pieces for Nothing | Following their momentous debut release (their self-titled 1981 mini-album), the original trio of Samy Birnbach (later known as DJ Morpheus), Malka Spigel and Berry Sakharof were joined by drummer Max Franken, and the multicultural gang (now including members born in Turkey, Israel, Poland and Holland) recorded their debut full-length, One By One which upon its release in 1983 positioned the band as an influential force across the European music scene, where their incisive, Middle-Eastern colored, lyrical post-new wave sound made a strong impression.

Their encounter with French choreographer Pierre Droulers gave Minimal Compact the opportunity for a new experience, as Droulers commissioned them to write four tracks for a dance piece. The band had recently befriended fellow-expats Tuxedomoon, and this led to the US band’s Peter Principle and then-regular sound engineer Gilles Martin taking on production duties for the recording of these tracks, which also benefitted from contributions by Tuxedomoon’s Steven Brown on sax and clarinet, and Jeannot Gillis (Julverne) on violin.

The resulting Pieces for Nothing is an elegant suite which shows another dimension of Minimal Compact’s musical scope, a direction they’ll later pursue with their Lowlands Flight project for Made To Measure. The band went on to record and release five more albums with Crammed.

Benjamin Lew: A la recherche de B. | Benjamin Lew is a unique artist who produced some of the most original, mesmerizing music of the ’80s/’90s, over the course of five albums (all out in the Made To Measure series). An enlightened amateur in the noble and almost Renaissance-like sense of the word he dabbled with equal grace in photography, writing and visual arts. His brilliant debut album (Douzième Journée, his first collab with Steven Brown) had come out in 1982 and his contribution to Made To Measure Vol.1 was recorded shortly thereafter as a soundtrack for a fashion exhibition (“Huit jeunes stylistes limbourgeois”).

Benjamin Lew would go on to record another great album with Steven Brown (A propos d’un paysage, featuring Vini Reilly/Durutti Column, 1986) then the truly inspiring Nebka (1988), a collaboration with Samy Birnbach (When God Was Famous [A Tribute To Poetry], 1989), and Le parfum du raki (1993). Two compilations of his work have come out, one on Crammed (Compiled Electronic Landscapes, 2003), and one on the Stroom label, in collab with Crammed (Le personnage principal est un peuple isolé, 2019).

Aksak Maboul: Scratch Holiday and Un chien mérite une mort de chien | At the point where Made To Measure Vol.1 was conceived in 1983, the seminal Crammed band had released its two initial albums, merged with The Honeymoon Killers (whose touring was then in full swing) and Marc Hollander and Véronique Vincent were busy writing and recording the songs for the third album, which would eventually be released in 2014 as Ex-Futur Album (and included a song which developed from one of the pieces in Un Chien).

Scratch Holiday could be described as an avant-garde melodic turntablist piece. All the sounds were generated with a turntable, a 7” pop single from the 1960s, and some orange marmalade. Recorded by Vincent Kenis with Family Fodder’s Alig it was then arranged and mixed by Kenis, Marc Hollander, and Gilles Martin. Kenis and Hollander claimed that the track was made as a soundtrack for a Honeymoon Killers holiday movie but to this day it hasn’t been possible to verify this assertion.

Un chien mérite une mort de chien was Aksak Maboul’s soundtrack for Michel Gheude’s eponymous theatre play, which revolves around the life of Russian writers Vladimir Mayakovsky, Ossip Brik, Lili Brik, Velimir Khlebnikov, and the Russian Futurist movement. Expanding on some aspects of the Onze danses pour combattre la migraine album, these six pieces were written and performed by Marc Hollander and produced in collaboration with Vincent Kenis and Gilles Martin

Tuxedomoon: Verdun | Born in 1977, in the heady atmosphere of San Francisco’s post-punk golden age, Tuxedomoon soon became a central part of New York’s No Wave scene, then signed to The Residents’ Ralph Records and released two classic albums, Half Mute (1980) and Desire (1981), which soon got them worldwide exposure.

Fleeing Reagan’s America, Tuxedomoon moved to Europe in the early ’80s and stayed there throughout the decade. Their ability to crystallize a certain dark and romantic zeitgeist quickly turned them into one of the most influential bands around yet their music transcended all genres. The band members respectively moved to distant parts of the globe and stopped working together for fifteen years before getting together again and recording five great albums between 2003 and 2015. New music is currently in the works.

In 1983 Tuxedomoon were living in Brussels and, after a couple of releases with Les Disques du Crépuscule, they had inevitably started gravitating towards Crammed Discs, at first in the context of solo projects and collaborations. The inclusion of Verdun in Made To Measure Vol.1 was the first proper Tuxedomoon release on Crammed. It would soon be followed by the creation of CramBoy (1985), an imprint entirely devoted to Tuxedomoon’s new and back catalogue works on which no less than 20 releases would take place over the course of the next 35 years.

The three tracks in Verdun were recorded for the soundtrack of a movie about the famous WW1 battlefield, entitled Het Veld van Eer and directed by Dutch filmmaker Bob Visser.

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