A reputed classical violinist and music teacher on the one hand, a curious jazz cat on the other. A business man and control freak, but an artist and free spirit as well. Still, rather little is known about René Costy. Small wonder: the Belgian musician and composer was in many, if not all, respects a singular man. The lure of international show business was wasted on him and consequently, his name has remained a well-kept secret.
But cream always rises to the top. Some twenty years after his passing, his work – finally – goes global. Moreover, this being a selection out of more than 400 tracks from a virtuoso, versatile and insatiable artist, it’s hard to underestimate the importance of this compilation, which focuses on Costy’s library music production from the 70’s. Available as a 2CD Deluxe Edition including 32-page booklet and 180g Gatefold 2LP, it’s hard to underestimate the importance of this compilation.
1997. Howie B (Björk, Tricky, U2) discovers a rare gem in the archives of the library music series ‘Chappell Mood Music Vol. 26’; a 1972 piece of music entitled ‘Scrabble’. The British musician/producer uses the break of the song as the foundation of ‘Switch’, the standout piece on his breakthrough album ‘Turn the Dark Off’ (1997). Shortly afterwards, ‘Scrabble’ is also discovered by Common (‘U, Black Maybe’), Fila Brazilia (‘DNA’) and J-Dilla (on the underground club hit ‘Fuck the Police’), and DJ’s around the world start paying serious money for the original albums.
Meanwhile, rather little is known about the composer of ‘Scrabble’. Small wonder: the Belgian musician and composer René Costy (1918-1997) had always been operating in the background. The lure of international show business was wasted on him. Consequently, his name remained a well-kept secret.
In many, if not all respects, René Costy was a singular man. A reputed classical violinist and music teacher on the one hand, a curious jazz cat on the other. A business man and control freak, but an artist and free spirit as well. As testified by Michel Costy, his son and only child, the man’s schedule is a fine illustration of his musical drive: “When I returned from school, the sign on the door of his study always read ‘SILENCE’, because he was rehearsing with his classical quartet.
”Classically trained in the violin, he was part of the Quatuor de la Reine Elisabeth, the string quartet of Elisabeth, queen of Belgium, and narrowly avoided execution during WWII, after refusing to perform at the funeral of a German marshal killed in Brussels. He would later be offered opportunities to work abroad, but opted for a life less hectic."
In the fifties, he became fascinated by gipsy music and wrote the Balkan fantasy ‘Transylvania/Moldavia’, which appears on ‘Victory’, the Belgian record label that also houses Ray Ventura and Henri Salvador. At the same time, he also discovered jazz.
In 1962, Costy stepped foot into the world of the media, working for Belgian radio and television, and would prove to be a productive and adventurous period for him, writing countless scores for radio shows and television series. By night, he welcomed the best musicians and arrangers to his house in Brussels including Gus Decock, Frank Engelen and Janot Morales.
A series of LP’s with library music for specialised labels like Editions Montparnasse (Paris) and Selection Records (Brussels) in the seventies provided him with an ideal playground where he could try out new ideas and instruments including an intriguing toy made by Robert Moog. Costy was one of the very first European musicians composing tunes on a synthesizer.
His electronic experiments were an artistic zenith in his career as a musician. The mix of funk, jazz and soundscapes that can be found on ‘Danger, Suspense et Eprouvettes’ (1977) have drawn comparisons to the ambient music of Air and Boards of Canada. The album in question is a much sought-after record among collectors and vinyl enthusiasts. Half of the tracks from that album can be found here, along with 12 previously unreleased tracks from that era.
On 21st April, 1997, René Costy passed away, the same year that saw the release of Howie B’s ‘Switch’ and it gave Costy’s music a second life. ‘My father absolutely adored crossword puzzles; his study was lined with dictionaries. When he discovered Scrabble, he was instantly hooked. He simply loved this playing around with letters. Just as much as he loved playing around with notes and music.’
1. René Costy - Ever Faithfull
2. René Costy - Danger
3. René Costy - Strange Dreams
4. René Costy - Automatisme
5. René Costy - Scrabble
6. René Costy - Right On The Nose
7. René Costy - Ostinato Bass
8. René Costy - NSS One
9. René Costy - Cue Joe
10. René Costy - Danse
11. René Costy - Activity n 1
12. René Costy - Nothing To Declare
13. René Costy - Emergency
14. René Costy - Secret Mixture
15. René Costy - Longest Night
16. René Costy - From Time To Time
17. René Costy - Country Dance
1. René Costy - Schizophreny
2. René Costy - Anxiety
3. René Costy - Phantasmes
4. René Costy - Machinery
5. René Costy - Désolation
6. René Costy - Activity 2
7. René Costy - Angoisse
8. René Costy - Cosmogony
9. René Costy - Actuality 1
10. René Costy - Barbara’s Dream
11. René Costy - Expectancy
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