‘Les Disques du Crépuscule was founded in Brussels in 1980 by journalists Michel Duval and Annik Honoré, together with designer Benoît Hennebert. Suggested by Honoré, the name Crépuscule translates as ‘twilight’. Early salon-style activity included live events staged at the famous Plan K venue (Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Orange Juice), as well as singles by A Certain Ratio, Section 25 and The Durutti Column on the Factory Benelux imprint.
‘The first proper Crépuscule music release, a stylish cassette/book package called From Brussels With Love, arrived at the end of the year, featuring a number of artists who would release records on the new label in 1981: Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman, Harold Budd, Bill Nelson, Richard Jobson and The Names. During its first year Crépuscule also issued diverse singles by Cabaret Voltaire, Josef K, Tuxedomoon, Antena, Ludus, Malaria!, Marine, Mikado and Soft Verdict (aka Wim Mertens), among many others, as well as two more eclectic compilations: The Fruit of the Original Sin, and Ghosts of Christmas Past.
‘Between 1982 and 1990 a remarkably cosmopolitan artist roster coalesced in the Belgian capital, notably Paul Haig, Wim Mertens, Isabelle Antena, Anna Domino, Alan Rankine and Tuxedomoon members Blaine L. Reininger, Steven Brown and Winston Tong. Some of the records they made were pop, others were avant-garde. Many were both. All arrived in exquisite sleeves, with Hennebert’s influential design associates including Marc Borgers, Claude Stassart, Jean-François Octave, Patrick Roques, Lawrence Wiener, Jean Paul Goude and Joel Van Audenhaege.
‘Crépuscule maintained close links with Factory Records in Manchester, and also operated subsidiary labels in the UK (Operation Twilight) and Japan (Crépuscule au Japon). 1984 saw the grand opening of Interferences, a chic ‘brasserie cosmopolite’ cum performance space on Rue de la tete d’or, just off the Grand Place. A sort of Haçienda in downtown Brussels, but with a better wine list.
‘During the 1990s the eclectic Crépuscule roster expanded to include Ultramarine, Cathy Claret, The Jazz Passengers and John Cale, while in the 2000s the label briefly relocated to Paris, concentrating on soundtracks and the French domestic market. 2013 saw the return of Les Disques du Crépuscule in classic form with special editions by Isabelle Antena, Tuxedomoon, The Pale Fountains, Anna Domino, Paul Haig, Ludus, Josef K, The Names, Steven Brown and Allez Allez. The revitalised label has also issued new projects by Marnie, Deux Filles, Marsheaux, 23 Skidoo, Blaine L. Reininger and Les Panties.’ — James Nice
Designed by Benoit Hennebert
by Frank Brinkhuis
Until late 1979, Belgian popular culture enjoyed a limited impact on the wider world. True, in 1963 the Singing Nun topped the US singles chart with Dominique, and fourteen years later Plastic Bertrand scored a worldwide hit with an energetic slice of parody punk, “Ca Plane Pour Moi”. But both were essentially novelty records, and the troubled career of Sister Luc Gabriel would ultimately end in tax wrangles and a suicide pact. Cartoon boy hero Tin Tin and troubadour Jacques Brel enjoyed worldwide renown, but most outsiders imagined they were French, while the saxophone (invented by Walloon-born Adolphe Saxe in 1840) occupied but limited space in the post-punk landscape. Only in April 1980 would the Belgian avant-garde reach a mass audience, when electro-pop trio Telex represented the nation in the Eurovision Song Contest, turning in a wry performance awarded just fourteen post-modern points.
But appearances deceive. Standing at the crossroads of Europe, Brussels boasted an alternative scene no less tuned-in as Paris or Amsterdam, and perhaps more so. New wave luminaries such as Patti Smith, Talking Heads, XTC and Magazine had enjoyed early success in the city, even if a performance by electro-rockers Suicide in June 1978 provoked the disturbance preserved on the 23 Minutes Over Brussels bootleg flexi. Public Image Limited also made their live debut in the city, at Theatre 140 in December 1978. Artists such as these inspired home-grown talent including Digital Dance, The Names, Siglo XX and Polyphonic Size, a handful of new independent labels were also poised to emerge, while live venues included the Ancienne Belgique, Beursschouwburg, and an important new multi-media arts space, Plan K.
Situated on the Rue de Manchester, Plan K was a labyrinthine former refinery built in the 1850s, six storeys high and adding up to 4,300 square metres. Many of the early musical bookings at Plan K were arranged by urbane journalist/economist Michel Duval together with Annik Honoré, then working as a bilingual secretary at the Belgian Embassy in London. Annik’s relationship with Joy Division lead to the rising Factory Records band being booked to appear at the formal Plan K opening on 16 October 1979, an ambitious multi-media event headlined by celebrated addict and avant-garde writer William S. Burroughs. Although the ‘rock concert’ featuring Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire was billed second from bottom on the designed poster, healthy import sales of Unknown Pleasures and the Cabs’ several singles on Rough Trade ensured a healthy audience of several hundred.
Plan K was soon established as a significant landmark on the European cultural circuit, and within six months of opening had hosted further concerts featuring Echo and the Bunnymen, Orange Juice, Josef K, Teardrop Explodes, Spizz Energi, Delta 5, The Slits, The Pop Group, James White/Chance, The Human League and Winston Tong. Plan K also booked a return visit by Joy Division on 17 January 1980, supported by local post-punk contenders Digital Dance. Factory’s connections with Brussels were further enhanced on 26 April, when A Certain Ratio, Section 25 and Eric Random played at the venue, this time accompanied by Tony Wilson. It was at this point that Wilson, Honoré and Duval agreed to set up a new sister label, Factory Benelux, which would in turn pave the way for an entirely separate label: Les Disques du Crépuscule.
Thick Pigeon – Dog
Soft Verdict Inergys (Reprise). A Wim Mertens Ensemble
antena – achilles – camino del sol
Isabelle Antena – Le Poisson des Mers du Sud
Konk – Elephant, Yo!
Marine – Life In Reverse
Allez Allez – Allez Allez
Malaria! – Pernod
Ultramarine – Bastard Folk
Eric Random – Sense so lightly
The Jazz Passengers – Tikkun
The French Impressionists – Theme From Walking Home
Cabaret Voltaire – Gut Level
Silly Things – Antena
The Swinging Buildings – Praying for a Cheaper Christmas
Ludus – The Escape Artist
The Durutti Column – Party
Noisey: How did you come into contact with Les Disques Du Crépuscule?
Paul Haig : To be honest, it was the label that got in touch with us and asked us if we wanted to come to Belgium to play a few concerts. After that, they asked us if we would like to record a single for the label and it came out: “Sorry For Laughing”, which we recorded in Brussels. Following our separation, Les Disques du Crépuscule even released a farewell single, “The Farewell Single”.
Anna Domino : I met Michel Duval in New York through mutual friends and sent him a tape with some of my songs, all recorded late at night with pots or pans. A few months later, he sent me a ticket for Brussels: I had ten days to record the album in a non-compliant studio, without an engineer and with electricity problems.
Blaine L. Reininger : We were supposed to play as the opening act for Joy Division in Plan K, but Ian Curtis had just been killed. Suddenly, our meeting was delayed, but it ended up happening and Michel Duval became someone very important in my life.
Jean-François Octave : In Brussels, I sold my fanzines when rock concerts came out. Gilles Verlant wrote an article about me in the Belgian magazine En Attendant , declaring that he adored them and that it was the most snobbish thing in the world of Belgian fanzines. A little later, Michel Duval, whose girlfriend I knew well at the time, contacted me.
Stuart Moxham : It was a long time ago, in 1992 I believe. We had met them in a cafe called La Porchetta Pollo Bar in Soho and it immediately became very friendly between us. It’s funny because I went back to this bar for the first time not long ago. To be honest, I didn’t know the label at all back then, and I still don’t know much about it today. All I know is that they were available to answer our questions.
Michel Sordinia : The Names was born in 1977 [under the name of The Passengers, changed to The Names in 1979] and recorded a first EP [Spectators of Life] released by WEA. We then signed to Factory Records and began a regular collaboration with Joy Division producer Martin Hannett. “Nightshift” was our first single on Factory. Michel Duval created Factory Benelux in agreement with the Manchester label, and we released “Calcutta” there. Michel having created Les Disques du Crépuscule [while continuing Factory Benelux] , we quite logically made some recordings [including the album Swimming ] for this structure which was particularly close to his heart.
Jean-François, were you aware of being part of a label with a very strong graphic identity?
JF Octave : For me, Les Disques du Crépuscule corresponded exactly to my idea of art: a hybrid thing, trying to mix music, literature and visual arts. Everything was juxtaposed and it was very exciting. Michel and I read the same books, had the same cravings for unclassifiable things, etc. I was a fan of Brian Eno but also of stuff like Astrud Gilberto, I read Proust, I found Jeanne Moreau sublime in Eva , I listened to Harold Budd’s K7 on repeat in my room, and I had introduced Michel and the Der Plan group, with whom I was very close in Düsseldorf.
You participated in the making of the cover for the label’s first compilation, From Brussels With Love . What was the original idea?
JF Octave : Michel wanted a K7 audio in a 7inches format cover, then he gave me carte blanche for the concept of the “plate”. We discussed the idea of all the last “isolated” places in the world: the desert island, the monastery, the prison, the mountain chalet… I made a whole series of drawings, and I wrote myself – even texts that I had translated into Japanese, Russian and other languages, before copying them by hand afterwards.
This cover was produced alongside Benoît Hennebert, who was quickly considered to be the “Belgian Peter Saville”. Is that a definition that you think is correct?
JF Octave: Benoît was terribly talented. He was surely the best Belgian graphic designer in the genre. I have never considered myself to be a “real” graphic designer: I am a visual artist who also does poster projects, covers, etc. On the other hand, for From Brussels With Love, I was not at all with Benoît. Benoît designed ¾ of the Crépuscule products, but the graphic design for this compilation was originally mine. That said, Michel gradually changed some things, added photos of Charles Van Hoorick, a drawing by Ted Benoît, a page by Benoît Hennebert, and a drawing by Richard Jobson. The end result is therefore quite far from the original project.
Finally, how do you explain the importance of Brussels in terms of music at that time?
Michel Sordinia : You should know that before punk and post punk, Brussels was ahead of other larger cities, including Paris and Amsterdam, in inviting avant-garde groups to come and play. From the time of progressive rock, a certain press (including the Télémoustique and Humo weeklies ) began to emerge. There was therefore a favorable ground. And then Factory Records appeared in Manchester and a handful of Brussels residents reacted quickly, groups from there arriving very quickly at Plan K, located rue de Manchester. You can not make that up !
Anna Domino : Brussels was extraordinary back then. Groups from all over the world came there. Unfortunately, it was still a city marked by the Second World War. There were five different types of police, all armed to the teeth with the right to enter any cafe and demand your papers. In the 1980s, I found Brussels and Berlin much more frightening than New York. Fortunately, everything has changed today and the city continues to be as creative as ever.
Les Disques du Crépuscule
Les Disques Du Crépuscule @ Discogs
Les Disques du Crépuscule @ Bandcamp
DisquesduCrépuscule @ Twitter
The Crepuscule and Factory Pages
The Legacy of Annik Honoré: Why Les Disques Du Crépuscule and Factory Benelux Matter.
Do Look Back: Les Disques Du Crepuscule
Michel Duval – L’autre visage des maisons de disques
‘Après Crépuscule’ at the Cologne Kunstverein
Tag: Les Disques du Crépuscule @ THE WORD
Quand Bruxelles était la deuxième capitale du post-punk
p.s. Hey. ** David, That’s an interesting story. I’ll see if I can find that doc or info otherwise. I remember Vapor Wave. Zac and I have made two feature films and a music video for Xiu Xiu that was never released because the record company hated it. I tend to like shit experimental films, so yours sounds cool. Admittedly very tiny audience for that kind of stuff seemingly. But that shouldn’t stop one. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Oh, yeah, I remember reading about that tone/sound in ‘Irreversible’. I think I read that it was only used during the first club/head destruction scene, but I could be misremembering. I know Gaspar. I should ask him. Have you seen ‘Enter the Void’? That’s my favorite of his. It’s much less shocking, but it’s still very disorienting. Hugs to your new re-found sanity. Hm, am I remembering right that the game was kind of Christian or something? Because I always wonder how many people there can be that like Christian Heavy Metal, and yet there are always new Christian Metal bands popping up and making records. My love does do birthdays, of course! Oh, now that’s very kind of your yesterday love. Emo guys over 25, or maybe I mean emo guys who look like they’re over 25, need all the help they can get. Unless they’re in a famous band, of course. I found this escort the other day who’s hetero but very broke, and he has decided he’s so broke that he could maybe handle letting gay guys lick his neck, but only that, nothing else, and he’s charging $5 to lick his neck, and he seemed nice, and I felt sorry for him, so today’s love writes him a little note saying, ‘You have a nice neck, take care of it’, and sends him $5 by Paypal, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. I generally recommend that Bernhard virgins start with his novel ‘Wittgenstein’s Nephew’. It’s short, it’s very him but slightly more reader-friendly than his other novels, so it’s a good place to take a taste and see if you like his style. And it’s great. A fable. That does sound tough. I think you have a very promising start there. My butt automatically slid to the edge of my seat when I read it. Did it pan out? ** Steve Erickson, ‘Prose’ was published in English for the first time in 2018. As I think you know, I’m not in the Verhoeven cult, so if ‘Benedetta’ is not up to his other snuff, I think I’ll take a rain check. Enjoy your filmic Thanksgiving. Right, it’s Thanksgiving! I keep forgetting, of course! ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff! Great to see you! It’s a good collection. Yes, I did see that about ‘The Cheap-Eaters’, and I keep forgetting to investigate. I’d never heard of that novel before. I mean, it’s undoubtedly really good. Bernhard doesn’t do less than that ever. I didn’t like ‘Titane’ at all. I thought it was derivative and trendy and shallow and its one-note dour tone was very tiresome. For me, it didn’t generate any heat at all, and the ‘wild and daring’ commentary about it depresses me. So, yeah. Thumbs down. I loved the Wes Anderson. I’m wary of the Edgar Wright, but I’m going to try it. I agree with you about the VU doc, but I did like it for what it was. Otherwise, I watched the Dash Snow documentary. I didn’t think it was great, but it was interesting and persuasive. I thought ‘Memoria’ was really disappointing and kind of a baffling total failure. I’m mostly watching a bunch of Ryan Trecartin’s recent videos, which are incredible, because he and I are doing a Zoom conversation for Artforum next week. I’m glad to hear the teaching is lightening up and that your work is re-finding its rightful place. Zac and I have a big meeting with our film’s producer tomorrow. I’m about 90% sure he’s not going to give us the green light that he promised he would give us in November, but we’ll see how much of the budget is raised and decide how we can get the rest as swiftly as possible. The novella is close to finished, I’m just waiting for Zac’s final round of edits and comments. Happy Thanksgiving if you’re doing that shebang. ** Right. Years ago a kind reader of this blog made a lovely post chronicling the work of the stylish, roughly 80s era Belgian record label Les Disques du Crépuscule, and I thought I would restore it to life, and I have. Enjoy, hopefully. See you tomorrow.