Today a Belgian electronic music group one of the most consistent industrial bands of the 1980s, pioneering the style they called electronic body music, they were a profound influence on the electronic and industrial music genres. even though they regularly pursued a more electronic variant of the sound that swept into vogue during the '90s, they were the premier exponent of European electronic body music ...N'Joy
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Front 242 were formed in 1981 in Aarschot, near Leuven, Belgium, by Daniel Bressanutti and Dirk Bergen, who wanted to create music and graphic design using emerging electronic tools. The first single, "Principles", was released in 1981. The front part of the name comes from the idea of an organized popular uprising, 242 stems from the UN resolution telling Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territory won after the 67 war. Patrick Codenys and Jean-Luc De Meyer had separately formed a group called Under Viewer at around the same time, and the two duos joined together in 1982. Bressanutti, Codenys and De Meyer took turns on vocals at first, until they settled on De Meyer as the lead vocalist. The quartet debuted in 1982 with the single "U-Men" and album Geography, recorded for Red Rhino Europe Records (RRE).
By the end of the decade, Front 242 had become the first Wax Trax! artist to make the jump to a mainstream label; Epic Records picked up the band's contract, reissuing each past album with new artwork and bonus tracks. The single "Tragedy (For You)" became another alternative club hit, and picked up rotation on MTV as well. Though the following album, Tyranny (For You), couldn't touch Front by Front in terms of quality, it made great strides for the group in the minds of audiences -- by the time of its release in 1991, Front 242 was, with Ministry and Skinny Puppy, one of the most well-known industrial acts in music.
Tyranny (For You) was the first album they released under contract with a major corporate label, Sony/Epic,after the widespread popularity of Front by Front. Sony/Epic also acquired the rights to the band's back catalog from Wax Trax! and issued re-released versions of the albums with new cover art and bonus tracks taken from singles and EPs.
Front 242's style shifted abruptly with each of their next two albums, released in rapid succession in 1993 on Epic's sub-label RRE (originally planned as a double-CD): 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09:12 Off (the numbers correspond to letters, spelling "Fuck Up Evil" and "Evil Off"). The band describes the two albums as "based on the duality of good and evil." However, strains were emerging, with the band members apparently having different artistic views. Despite these tensions, they performed on the main stage of the 1993
Neither of these albums had significant input from Richard 23, and 05:22:09:12 OFF only included their lead vocalist, Jean-Luc De Meyer, on a remixed track originally from Up Evil. On the other hand, a variety of new contributors were listed as members of Front 242 on these albums: Jean-Marc Pauly and Pierre Pauly (of the Belgian electronic group Parade Ground) on Up Evil, and 99 Kowalski and Eran Westwood on Off.
99 Kowalski is the stage name of Kristin Kowalski, making a tradition out of Richard 23's idea of number-as-name. Kowalski and Westwood were originally members of a New York City band called Spill who Bressanutti and Codenys had brought to Belgium to produce their debut album. After the recording sessions fell apart, they contributed to Front 242 on the Off release.
After the release of 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09:12 Off, there was no new material from Front 242 under any lineup. Instead, the band released a stream of live recordings and remixes. However, this period also saw a proliferation of side projects, an inordinate number of which involved De Meyer. Earlier, Richard 23 played in the Revolting Cocks, and De Meyer had a side project doing vocals for Bigod 20 for their single, "The Bog" in 1990. In 1995, De Meyer met Marc Heal of Cubanate at a Front Line Assembly concert, and the two of them collaborated along with Ged Denton and Jonathan Sharp, to record as Cyber-Tec Project for the new (and short-lived) Cyber-Tec record label.
After the departure of Sharp and the demise of the Cyber-Tec label, the remaining group continued working under the name C-Tec. De Meyer also took over as vocalist for Birmingham 6 for their 1996 album Error of Judgment. 1996 also saw the debut album Elemental from Cobalt 60, which De Meyer formed with Dominique Lallement and Frederic Sebastien of Reims, France, members of Kriegbereit. This was the start of a number of releases from Cobalt 60, which also did the soundtrack for the video game Wing Commander V. Meanwhile, Richard 23 recorded with the groups Holy Gang, and later, LaTchak.
The four core members of Front 242 regrouped in 1998 to compose radically reworked versions of many of their songs, which they then performed on their first tour in five years, appropriately called the Re:Boot tour. They acknowledged the influence of The Prodigy and their Fat of the Land album in crafting the new, more techno style of Re:Boot. The new tour material was the subject of Front 242's new recording contract in the U.S. with Metropolis Records. Front 242 also indicated at this time that they were recording new material. However, they had little activity after 1998, making occasional appearances in Europe and Mexico, while Codenys recorded under the name Gaiden with Steve Stoll in 2001.
2002 saw the beginning of a wave of new material from Bresanutti and Codenys, and then from Front 242. In August 2002 a DVD/CD two-disc set called Speed Tribe was released by Dance.com. The DVD was a collaboration with experimental documentary filmmakers Rod Chong and Sharon Matarazzo, who filmed the 2001 24 Hour Le Mans. In the video, the racecars, clouds, rain and spectators form an impressionistic visual backdrop for the music.
Several months later, the first release from Male or Female, also known as Morf, a new project for Bresanutti and Codenys along with vocalist Elko Blijweert. In 2002 and 2003, Morf released an album, an E.P., a double album, and a DVD/CD two-disc combo, on the Belgian record label Alfa Matrix, and went on tour through the U.S.
Front 242 promised a new U.S. tour to perform new material from these releases. They have made occasional appearances in Latin America and Europe, even being rejoined by Dirk Bergen for a reunion concert in Aarschot (De Klinker club) in 2004 under the original lineup of Bresanutti, Bergen, Codenys and De Meyer. This performance was kept secret until two days before the show but when the scene magazine Side-Line and the band's label Alfa Matrix launched the news, tickets were quickly sold out.
The band has now also set itself to re-release its entire back catalogue both as a normal CD and as a limited edition consisting of a 2-CD set holding previously unreleased material. For this the band is working together with the Belgian label Alfa Matrix that already took care of releasing the albums of the Front 242 side-project Male Or Female. The first re-release is their debut album Geography, this time newly remastered personally by Bresanutti to surprisingly powerful effect and including 3 extra tracks (two hidden ones) on the normal CD format.
Meanwhile, their enthusiasm for side projects has continued, as Patrick Codenys started appearing with a new group called Red Sniper, Bresanutti started recording with a new group called Troissoeur, and Codenys and Richard 23 formed a quasi-DJ project called Coder23 which toured in late 2004 and early 2005 as the opening act for VNV Nation. De Meyer contributed vocals on two studio tracks for the Glis album Nemesis in 2005. The lyrical content of the two songs ("The Irreparable" and "La Béatrice") were based on the poems of Charles Baudelaire.
Front 242 toured through twenty venues in North America in November 2005, their first tour as a full band since 2000. The band performed at the Roskilde Festival in 2006. The band's sold out two-day performance at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels has been recorded for a future release via Alfa Matrix.
In December 2006, Front 242 announced from their MySpace page that they were writing music for a video game called Cipher Complex and provided a link to a teaser trailer with a short sample of one of their scores.
In 2007, De Meyer announced a new project: 32CRASH via the Alfa Matrix label. The band is preparing for an album release in October 2007 after the release of the EP Humanity.
That's it then until Transmission SE91 a radioshow recording Kåren, Göteborg, Sweden 15 March 1991 was released in 2013. A Year later however a digital release recorded live at Cold Waves III on September 28, 2014. Celebrates the 30th anniversary of Front 242's first USA show. And that's about it thusfar..
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Listening to Geography in the 21st century is a surprising experience in ways; one can tell exactly who's making the music, but things were still incredibly different at the start for Front 242. That said, the edge of the band is fully present, but the sheer amped-up level of brute aggression isn't. As a self-consciously modernist electronic body music act, though, Front 242 made a good debut, with a lot of the familiar elements of the group -- de Meyer's disembodied, passionless voice, Codenys and Daniel B's ears for threatening atmospherics -- in place. The Depeche Mode comparisons are understandable (check out the synth stabs and general pace of "U-Men" for a good example) but not perfectly accurate. Lyrically, Front 242's focus is mostly turned well away from love and religious imagery in favor of cryptic threats, though the THX 1138-sampling "GVDT" is calm and playful enough to imagine David Gahan singing it. A good demonstration of where Front 242 was at can be heard with the first two songs. While "Operating Tracks" adds enough white noise and full percussion slams to indicate the future, "With Your Cries" isn't all that removed from what Kraftwerk had already done. From there the quartet keep bouncing back and forth, sometimes offering up flashes of real inspiration but often indulging in the kind of random noodling that gave early-'80s industrial/dance music something of a bad name. That a number of the tracks are fragmentary instrumentals doesn't help, though they can make for nice enough mood music, and the rough recording quality actually helps in that regard. The 1992 reissue does a great job in pumping up the sound and giving it a fresh edge, while also including three rare tracks. "Ethics" is a nicely murky B-side, but the real fun comes from both sides of the group's 1981 debut single. To say they're both derivative of early Cabaret Voltaire would put it mildly -- even guitars are heard! -- though it is interesting hearing the original version of "Body to Body."
Front 242 - Geography (flac 262mb)
01 Operating Tracks 3:49
02 With Your Cries 2:43
03 Art & Strategy 2:14
04 Geography II 1:09
05 U-Men 3:13
06 Dialogues 2:04
07 Least Inkling 2:23
08 GVDT 2:55
09 Geography I 2:12
10 Black White Blue 4:19
11 Kinetics 2:03
12 Kampfbereit 3:19
13 Ethics 2:27
14 Principles 4:40
15 Body To Body 4:10
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With the recruitment of Richard 23 to fill out the classic line-up, Front 242 started consolidating its strengths with the No Comment EP. Kicking off with the full nine-minute hit of "Commando Mix," the quartet took the best parts of Geography for a starting point and whipped up a smart, tight selection of songs that start to have their own identity as Front 242, straight up. "No Shuffle," with its straightforward, brutal drum punch and heavy distortion, not to mention de Meyer's cold pronouncing of the lyrics, is particularly fine. "Special Forces," which appears in a "nomenklatura" instrumental remix as well, isn't much different but just as effective, de Meyer and 23 trading off in the manner that would characterize many of the band's later hits. A couple of cuts still seem almost too polite in comparison to later efforts, but while "Lovely Day" may have an actual romantic theme to it, the combination of the two vocalists' work and the screeching synth break make appropriately unsettling results. The 1992 re-release, besides a fine remastering job, also includes four bonus cuts from various sources. A re-recorded version of "Body to Body" beats out the original take by a mile, while the two live cuts from a show in Ghent are reasonable enough if not particularly revelatory. Adding yet another run through of "Special Forces" (the demo session in this instance) was probably doing too much, however.
Front 242 - No comment (flac 468mb)
01 Commando Mix 9:23
02 Deceit 3:44
03 Lovely Day 5:23
04 No Shuffle 3:30
05 Special Forces 5:23
06 S. Fr Nomenklatura I 4:26
07 S. Fr Nomenklatura II 2:10
08 Body To Body 4:15
09 See The Future (Live) 6:20
10 In November (Live) 2:37
11 Special Forces Demo 4:50
Politics Of Pressure EP
01 Commando (Remix) 9:11
02 No Shuffle 3:47
03 Don't Crash 4:50
04 Funkahdafi 3:20
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On this amazing album, Front 242 came into its own, its brutal electrobeat now helping to fully define industrial in the broadest sense of the term. Daniel B and Codenys together whip out a series of chilling but always just danceable enough full body slams, showing an increased depth and sophistication in the overall arrangements, while 23 and de Meyer deliver their shouted and emotionless vocals with the force of full command. When the two share their vocals via traded-off lines or, often, simultaneous singing, the contrast between 23's slightly more breathless and de Meyer's sterner approach increases the overall appeal. The band's ear for vivisection by sampling reaches new heights: endless series of cries, random words, and more are looped and tweaked throughout nearly every song, a good example being the title word on "Aggressiva Due." Meanwhile, the sampled televangelist on "Angst" clearly paves the way for "Welcome to Paradise" a few years in the future. The two peaks of the album are its singles, both of which showcase equally gripping approaches. "Masterhit," appearing in its full seven minute version, is a full-on dancefloor monster, with a weirdly pretty chorus that makes it even more striking and memorable. "Quite Unusual," meanwhile, combines an almost quizzical lyrical portrait of a cryptic (romantic?) situation with a cinematic synth arrangement and the ever important pounding beat, varied at numerous points for even greater effect. At points on Official Version one can still hear the hints of the band's calmer start -- both "Television Station" and "Rerun Time" have instrumental breaks that Depeche Mode wouldn't have found out of place in 1984 -- but otherwise all is brusque yet chilly energy. The random metal guitar samples in said tune aren't quite up to the level of the Young Gods, but they're cool regardless. The 1992 reissue makes a great album even better with four fine bonus cuts, including an alternate take of "Quite Unusual." The two remixes of "Masterhit," "Masterblaster" and "Hypnomix," are both fine examples of the art, especially the former.
Front 242 - Official Version (flac 393mb)
01 W.Y.H.I.W.Y.G. 7:28
02 Rerun Time 5:26
03 Television Station 2:41
04 Agressiva Due 2:59
05 Masterhit (Part I & II) 7:07
06 Slaughter 3:37
07 Quite Unusual 3:49
08 Red Team 3:50
09 Angst 1:57
10 Quite Unusual (Alternate Version) 5:02
11 Agressiva 5:00
12 Masterblaster 7:06
13 Hypnomix 4:31
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Official Version was fantastic, but this album was something else again. Easily one of the greatest industrial albums ever made, bar none, Front by Front hit like a bombshell on its listeners and influenced more bands and songs than can be counted. Even the album art design, with everything from a rough pixel computer font cover to harsh video stills and blunt slogans, is a work of art, perfectly in sync with the electric mania inside (unfortunately, in the late '90s the entire Front 242 catalog was reissued with "high-tech" graphics). From the rampaging start of the album, "Until Death (Us Do Part)," not a single note, sample, guttural syllable, or headache-inducing drum hit is out of place. The album's most deservedly famous track can make an equally good case for being the definite EBM song: "Headhunter." A portrait of capitalism as mercenary terrorism with a wickedly compelling mock orchestral bass providing lead melody, "Headhunter" deserves notice not merely for the pounding music but the astonishing vocal arrangements. Richard 23 and Jean-Luc de Meyer serve up the memorable step-by-step chorus in perfect balance, the latter delivering each step like an order from on high while 23's singing adds on even more frenetic energy. The overall feeling of militaristic, blunt efficiency encompasses music, artwork, and lyrics -- thus utterly appropriate song titles like "Circling Overland" and "First In/First Out." "In Rhythmus Bleiben" stands out as a particularly fine song in a series of them, the melange of computer squeals and glitches, building percussion, chaotic vocal samples, and a downright anthemic chorus resulting in one killer tune. The 1992 reissue does the original CD one better by also including another mix of "Headhunter," as well as the entire Never Stop EP.
Front 242 - Front By Front (flac 460mb)
01 Until Death -Us Do Part 4:30
02 Circling Overland 4:43
03 Im Rhythmus Bleiben 4:14
04 Felines 3:34
05 First In/First Out 3:52
06 Blend The Strengths 3:13
07 Headhunter V3.0 4:45
08 Work 01 3:27
09 Terminal State 4:09
10 Welcome To Paradise 5:17
11 Headhunter V1.0 5:01
12 Never Stop! V1.0 3:56
13 Work 242 N.Off Is N.Off 5:10
14 Agony -Until Death- 2:43
15 Never Stop! V1.1 4:22
16 Work 242 6:41
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