The universe is making music all the time

Time Has Told Me: Jan Van den Broeke

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Life passes, and the heart is beating, determined and free. And this heart is bringing us to many different places. Until it falls silent.”

 Jan Van den Broeke

Words: Mark Carry


Last year’s treasured re-issue ‘11000 Dreams’ by Belgium’s Jan Van den Broeke documents 80’s DIY, lo-fi wave outfits Absent Music, June 11 and The Misz. The essential tracks encompass sublime ambient, synth and minimal wave sonic creations: ‘11000 Dreams’ feels like opening a vast treasure chest of scintillating sounds from an entirely forgotten space in time.

Covering over thirty years of music, the ever-dependable Ghent-based Stroom label delivers yet another essential musical document, or moreover a lost relic of hidden depths and magnitude. Van den Broeke effectively bridged the gap between ambient and song; feeling at once beautifully familiar and yet mysteriously unknown.

The Belgian artist’s music is assembled in intricate layers, utilizing electronic and acoustic instrumentation and samples from radio, TV, field recordings, old tapes and movies. ‘11000 Dreams’ is just that, a truly transporting, ethereal sound world of immense soundscapes, spoken word passages, intricate harmonies and synth elements.

“Art can emerge from scratch” echoes powerfully throughout the gorgeous spoken word ambient song cycle ‘A Peaceful Vale’ by June11 (a project which began in the 2000s). A heartfelt lament rises gradually into the atmosphere: “Happiness comes unexpectedly when your name is unveiled”. Somehow the worlds of 60’S French chanson and fourth world ambient are merged together.

Some of the most groundbreaking moments captured on ‘11000 Dreams’ are dotted throughout Van den Broeke’s June 11 project. ‘Memories’ is a heavenly, soul-stirring composition built upon an elderly lady recounting her most cherished memories, drifting beneath illuminating synth soundscapes and beautiful reverb. Elsewhere, ‘White Bird’ contains cinematic spoken word passages that drift majestically beneath ethereal soundscapes, encompassing new age and ambient spheres. “I began to float,up and away from my body / A snowflake, weightless” are the opening words softly uttered; the listener is drawn into a wholly other dimension. A white bird sailing with no plan.

Who Is Still Dreaming’ is one of the album’s most captivating moments, which contains the gradual bliss of cinematic strings and 80’s minimal wave components, masterfully embedded beneath layers of deeply affecting spoken word.

The earlier recorded output is equally illuminating. Absent Music’s DIY, lo-fi wave creations remain as timeless as ever. ‘Akahito’ is a glorious post-punk odyssey with intricate harmonies and seductive bass groove. ‘My Lesbian Girlfriends’ is a shimmering synth pop gem with compelling drum machines and warm pop hooks aplenty.

The Misz reveals more artistic brilliance and another chapter in Van den Broeke’s immense songbook. “11000 Dreams” is a divine record that hits you hard and pulls you in deeply: through the act of listening, Van den Broeke’s deeply personal and unique sound world permits an “escaping from darkness”. Timeless.

‘11000 Dreams’ is available now on Stroom.

a - free at last-the misz


Interview with Jan Van den Broeke.


It’s such an honour to ask you some questions about your incredibly inspiring and stunningly beautiful music. The “11000 Dreams” vinyl – a timeless treasure released by Ghent label Stroom – is one of those rare jewels in music, a unique, shape shifting and mesmeric world unfolds before your very ears. Being part of this re-issue must have been a very rewarding and enjoyable process for you. What were your feelings and impressions of this (timeless) music as you revisit these important chapters in your life?

Jan Van den Broeke: I was of course honoured and delighted when the people from STROOM came up with the idea of a compilation album – capturing more than 30 years…. At the same time I was rather sceptical, having doubts, it seemed like an impossible blend to me. I must admit it’s not easy for me to listen to some pieces I made 30 years ago. I was young then, I didn’t think then, I never thought of a career, I just did something…

For me it was important that the June11 project would be presented on the album. After all Ziggy Devriendt has done a wonderful job, by bringing the right tracks together. There were so many tracks to choose from… Ziggy made a quirky selection and it seems to work.

Please take me back to the early 80’s in Ghent, Belgium. As a teenager, I presume you began your fascination with sound and music? I wonder at what point did you begin to record your own music and begin on your music path?

JVB: In 1980 I had moved from the countryside to Ghent. I became an art school student by then, and a whole new world opened up for me. I discovered how different art forms can influence each other: painting, poetry, film and video, architecture, theatre, performance… It’s all one piece.

In the evening I used to listen to a local alternative radio (Radio Toestel), and I heard all those new records from Crammed and Les Disques du Crépuscule…. That was the point where music became more than just songs for me. Music appeared to be also sounds, and awe and experiments and wonder….

In 1980 I bought the cassette From Brussels With Love, and a few months later the eclectic double lp The fruit of the original sin, both appearing on Les Disques du Crépuscule. These were really of huge significance. I played them to death….

Spoken Word, Modern Classical, New Wave, Art Rock, Interview, Acoustic, Experimental, Leftfield, Abstract, Ambient…… Harold Budd, Brian Eno, Jeanne Moreau, The Names, Richard Jobson, Peter Gordon, Wim Mertens, Claude Debussy, Arthur Russel, William Burroughs…. So many significant names, all on one album…, this was so new to me, it was incredible but true, and some kind of relieve also…. I discovered Holger Czukay, Eno, Steve Reich and the American minimalists, I even listened to John Cage, I became a great admirer of Tuxedomoon, I went to see Laurie Anderson in Amsterdam….

My all-time favourite album – Benjamin Lew & Steven Brown ‎– Douzième Journée: Le Verbe, La Parure, L’Amour – was released in 1982.

In 1983, I started to record my own music.

The minimal wave and post punk music of this time must have served huge inspiration. What were the records, for instance that would have been present when growing up back home (or perhaps older siblings or friends had playing on their stereos)?

JVB: I didn’t start listening to the radio before I was 12, from then on I enjoyed discovering all kinds of music: folk, rock, soul…, I liked soul music, strange but true. Minimal wave wasn’t born yet.

These were the 70s. I was lying on the carpet with my headphones on, while my parents were asleep. They didn’t have any records themselves, they were always working and always very serious. I was the only music lover in my family.

I bought my first guitar when I was 15 years old, wanting to become a new Bob Dylan (the idea of becoming “a protest-singer” must have attracted me…) I learned his songs, before I got to know Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen … from some friends older siblings.

Their music was more complicated, bluer, darker… Gloom has always attracted me.

While in cities, and in other people’s heads, punk was around in the late 70s, I kept on listening to these mesmerizing and blue voices. I must admit, I saw a Pink Floyd concert also with some friends, after all this might have had a bigger influence then I thought then.

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The wonderful aspect with “11000 Dreams” is the multitude of ideas, artistic creation and sense of transcendence that fills these seamless tracks. A hugely organic and DIY ethos forever permeates these recordings. Can you talk me through the equipment and recording equipment (which I presume was a 4-track of some kind) and those early days of self-discovery through the art of sound?

JVB: I started to record music in 1983 with Dries Decoker, we really had little money in those days.

I owned a cheap Aria acoustic guitar, Dries owned an Ibanez electric Guitar and a bass guitar, and that was it. We tried to beg and borrow all the rest: a drum machine, a cheap microphone…. After a while I bought myself a 2nd hand Fostex 250 4-track cassette recorder. From that day, the Fostex was always at the center of the circle.

The music was made while recording, no need to rehearse for days… We could use a Roland TR 606 and a Bass Line for a few weeks, we used toys, we used whatever we could find. In the beginning we didn’t have any synths. We had just enough money to buy a Casio PT20.  We mangled the sound trough various third-hand guitar effects and we loved it.

My first synthesizer was an old monophonic one. There was a rusty stain where the brand of the synth was supposed to be, so I never knew what kind of synth it was….One or two years later, I bought a Roland TR-909 drum machine (that was soon replaced by a TR-505), and a KORG Poly-800 II with a simple sequencer onboard. I remember I liked to experiment with the Fostex 250, using it as an instrument – turning buttons while recording, adjusting the recording speed, playing tapes in reverse, cutting and splicing them….

You formed The Misz with your friend Dries Dekocker in Gent around 1983. This must have been an incredibly exciting period in your life, where prior to this, you were making music alone (I presume?) in your room and to suddenly share and collaborate with someone else, the possibilities must have felt endless? Listening back to the tapes of The Misz, you must still get that feeling of awe and surprise hearing your younger self express emotion through this special music?

JVB: The Misz was a strange symbiosis of 2 different characters. Dries and I both lived in the same street in Gent. The music that we made came naturally into each other’s doors and brought us together. For me it was exciting, because I had never played with 2 or more different instruments.

Dries was more the rock musician type, while I liked less noise, and less notes…

I felt like a musical director, a producer for the first time. I liked experimenting. Friends who came by were dragged behind the mic. Listening back to the tapes, I hear that I was very young and immature – but we had good intentions… we were bold and fearless, which is good.

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You described your Absent Music project (which you began almost like a solo side project in the mid-80’s) as “my private minimal-wave-and-other-experiment-like-project”. Please talk me through the beguiling minimal wave track “Akahito” which is included on “11000 Dreams” and your memories of witnessing the song bloom? I just love how a tapestry of Japanese poetry is masterfully interwoven inside this post punk creation. Lyrically, the song must have painted the sense of despair being felt during the 80’s?

JVB: I guess you know “Akahito” is the name of a Japanese poet, who lived in the 8th century in Japan (700-736). I learned to know him from my teacher in English when I was 17. I was blown away by this short poem:

I wish I were close

To you as the wet skirt of

A salt girl to her body.

I think of you always.

From the first time I had heard his name, Yamabe no Akahito walked with me as a guardian angel through an evil world. He stood for everything that was good, that was love, that was longing, that was inexpressible…I called his name so many times. Some might think I am nostalgic about the 80s, but I remember these years especially as cold-hearted and depressed. Young people were singing: No Future…, there was not very much hope.

We had little money, we lived in Belgium, we had difficult girlfriends, we didn’t like working, we had to deal with our catholic education and the world was filled with disasters. The time coloured black….

Little by little there appeared to be some kind of future, be it a dark one and not for everyone. Out of despair comes the will to create they say – but at the same time I have always realized that we, westerners have always lived in “the first world” – the richer one. I will never forget that.

M034 digipack x3P z 2 kieszeniami.cdr

‘Chez Renee’ (1988) was one of two cassettes released by Absent Music, which was a soundtrack for a video, exhibition and performance by Renee Lodewijckx. Tell me about how Renee and how her artistic work helped to shape the music you, in turn, captured on tape? I can imagine this must have been quite a liberating and fun process and to be channeling your music through these different art mediums?

JVB: ‘Chez Renee – ik en erotiek’ was a project with drawings, paintings, video and performance. It premiered on the 19th of March, 1988. In the video, you can see Renee’s version of a make up ritual.

No cheap eroticism, but going past the temptation, past the attraction, with a direct pose, intensely physical, even intrusive. Overwhelming, disarming. Renee showed me her work, explained about the project, and gave me some fragments of a text by Nancy Friday to read.

The first thing I did then was to collect some “primitive” sounds, like from animals in the forest, rain and thunder… I also recorded Renee’s voice. These were the basics. Musically, I worked a lot on “contrast”, soft and loud, sweet and threatening, voices and instruments, beat and flow…I think that was the right thing to do, to interpret the eroticism and contrasting colours in this peculiar art project.

Has there been moments in your life that you feel were pivotal moments for you, when it came to your own musical path, Jan? In terms of the music-making process, I love how imaginative and deeply personal these recordings captured on “11000 Dreams” (incidentally a title which serves a perfect embodiment to the music) it feels like you never had any rules or boundaries, you simply followed your heart? In this regard, can you share with me some of your favourite sonic sources when it came to incorporating samples from television, radio, old tapes and field recordings?

JVB: I can’t think of extremely pivotal moments – life is just a long walk.

“You’re walking. And you don’t always realize it. But you’re always falling. With each step, you fall forward slightly. And then catch yourself from falling”(Laurie Anderson said that).

Musically I just followed my heart – and many things arise by chance. From the moment I was thinking about recording music, it was obvious that I would use samples and sounds I came across.

In the 80s, I guess I was more politically interested – I followed the news, the cold war, all the disasters that took place, …. – I recorded the news right from the radio or TV, and used some fragments. I also bought used tapes on the flea market, and sometimes found strange sounds on them. I wrote songs about religion, Lech Walesa, the Bhopal tragedy, the sinking of The Mont Louis, the Chernobyl disaster….

Later, I had less fear and was more interested in letting ideas and voices in from people from all over the world. To broaden my world, to give other people a voice. I was never really into what is sometimes called “world music” – but nevertheless exotic and mysterious voices and sounds have always intrigued me.


Take me back to 2003-2004 when you resumed your work under the JUNE11 pseudonym. You write in the liner notes, “one of my dreams was (and still is) to try fill the gap between ambient and song”. It’s clear that this dream of yours is fully realized on tracks like “White Bird”, “Who Is Still Dreaming?” and “Memories” (for example). I get the impression your production skills and musical language had developed and evolved when it came to making music as JUNE11? How did you change as an artist – and perhaps as a person – during this creative time?

JVB: In 2003-2004 I resumed my work, with new skills, new tools, new friends.

In the 90s, I had sold almost all the gear I used in the 80s. In a way this  was very sad of course. In another way, I was forced to go and look for new tools – and these turned out to be even more interesting…I started working with Cubase, midi, vst softsynths… the possibilities were endless.

I was older and wiser then, and for the first time I was able to take some kind of distance. I pursued my own musical and personal path, letting intuition more and more dictate my music, helping me to find aerial calm and dissolve in the moment. The 80s had long gone, angst and fear had more or less disappeared, I finally allowed some sunlight to come pouring in….

I can imagine that the source material (sample of 93-year-old Olga reminiscing about her youth, for instance) must have served huge inspiration for you that in turn, triggered music deep within you, to come to the surface? You must have such strong memories of first hearing Olga’s voice (from a cassette?) and your desire to then paint her words to music? It’s such a divine, momentous piece of music that moves me in such a profound way.

JVB: I am also very happy with this piece. I had the idea then to release an album titled “7 pulses”, I don’t know why.

I came across Olga’s voice on – a collaborative database of sound for musicians and sound lovers. I owe a debt of gratitude to “acclivity”, who uploaded 8 minutes of Olga’s voice. I don’t know really who recorded it, and I don’t have to know either….

I think I was attracted by the title “Olga’s India Memories”, making me think of Richard Jobson’s track “India Song” – that owes debt of gratitude to the 1975 film by Marguerite Duras and its soundtrack by Carlos d’Alesso…I thought it would be a good idea to combine Olga’s old but vivid voice, with a pulse, like it was her musical heart rate.

Life passes, and the heart is beating, determined and free. And this heart is bringing us to many different places. Until it falls silent. That was the basic idea.

Memories ended up on a compilation of the seriously underrated EE Tapes label, in the CD series Table for Six, all quiet. A large amount of thanks owed to Eriek Van Havere from EE Tapes ( He was the first one to give me chances, when I wanted to release new music in 2006. Eriek has become a friend of mine since then.

Some of the never-released-before recordings contained on “1100 Dreams” are some of the finest moments of the record: “White Bird” (the perfect opening line) and “Who Is Still Dreaming?” with its text-to-speech application. I wonder did you hear these particular tracks in a very long time (when it came to compiling tracks for this special compilation)? These tracks must surprise you – to this day – and where you may ask yourself, how exactly did I create this?

JVB: I think I started working on “Who Is Still Dreaming?” in 2006. Musically, it was inspired by “Åses død” – from Peer Gynt suite by Edvard Grieg, 1875. It’s a sad and sweeping piece that I have always loved. Textually, I try to “digest” 9/11, by asking who, despite all strain, is strong enough to keep dreaming, to keep living without fear. There are special moments in life when things come together. I think the most interesting things happen when 2 or 3 ideas, thoughts come together.

“Who Is Still Dreaming?” should have been on the first JUNE11 album (Matter is Alive – 2008), but we never found the right place on the album for it, so it was left unpublished, but I never forgot about the track…

“White Bird” I started to work on in 2011. I remember I wanted to create a piece of music, without using any instruments. 95% of what you hear here are samples of monks singing, I had to pitch and edit them to make them singing in the same key, and to make them singing in some kind of endless sky….

The track was left unfinished for about 5 years, until I finished it in 2016 – to be the opening track of the 11000 Dreams album. I was surprised to hear when “White Bird” was also used by HUNEE as the opening track of his “Essential Mix” radioshow on BBC on April 29th 2017.

As you still make music today and also looking back over your work thus far, what do you feel have been the guiding principles for you and your own artistic creations? Do you see a common thread that connects all these recordings captured on “11000 Dreams”?

JVB: I watched Daniel Lanois ‘Here Is What Is’ documentary again recently, and I would like to answer this question with a Brian Eno quote from this film, expressing best what I have always done, what I have always believed in: DIY, experiment, don’t be afraid, be authentic, start something….

Beautiful things grow out of shit. Nobody ever believes that.

Things evolve out of nothing. You know, the tiniest seed in the right situation turns into the most beautiful forest. And then the most promising seed in the wrong situation turns into nothing. I think this would be important for people to understand, because it gives people confidence in their own lives to know that’s how things work.

If you walk around with the idea that there are some people who are so gifted—they have these wonderful things in their head but and you’re not one of them, you’re just sort of a normal person, you could never do anything like that—then you live a different kind of life. You could have another kind of life where you could say, well, I know that things come from nothing very much, start from unpromising beginnings, and I’m an unpromising beginning, and I could start something.’

‘11000 Dreams’ is available now on Stroom.


Written by admin

June 12, 2018 at 4:14 pm

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