Mavis's Dream Five

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DAAU @ The Cactus Club, Bruges, Belgium



Mavis is still undecided about DAAU. Mandi, of course, is their greatest advocate and has a large collection of html pages to prove it, and for months has said "do you like DAAU yet Mavis? Do you? Do you?". Now, to be honest, the proposition of travelling across the pond to see four stoner Belgians playing accordians and what can be described best as large fiddles all whilst yelling "nothing left but the hunger" at the top of their voices hardly filled Mavis with a huge amount of anticipation. And doubly so, seeing their latest album Life Transmission is a confused mis-match of neo-classical stylings and dub reggae. Seriously. But the nice people at Kindamuzik.net had set us up with an interview and Bruges is always nice at this time of year so we deemed it the old green Michelin guide two-star rating, ie worth a journey, and so off from Swindon to Bruges we did plod.

Did we say yet that Bruges is very nice at this time of year? Except, the Cactus Club is perhaps the only building in the whole of the old town that is made out of concrete, even if the club itself is in an old cellar. And oh, how we loved waiting for the delayed DAAU to actually arrive and unpack so they could give us the interview, and how we loved it even more when club staff actually chucked us out, saying the band were too busy, without even checking with the band that they were. Especially since Mandi is a friend of theirs.

Anyway, the Dream Crew, Mandi and Mavis, Trevor and Nathalie and eventually Elise and Enrique decamped to the pub where many Brugse Tripels were drowned, and where Mandi and Mavis decided they were hungry and disappeared to the Frituur. And only on our return did we discover DAAU had actually gone on stage already. Ooops.

You might be surprised at how dynamic a band composed of three classically-trained brothers (the Lenskis, of whom more later), an accordionist and a clarinet player could be live. Not for them some gentle quintet, playing polite classical numbers whilst old-money Belgians nibble on their mussel sanwiches and sip their weak tea. No, this was the full rock-and-roll, let's-give-it-our-all-and-let's-sound-damn-unique-at-the-same-time deal. The thing is, there's no-one like DAAU. Probably never will be either. This is the sound of the avant-garde made palatable without diluting its principles, the sound of modern "serious" music letting its hair down after a hard day's toil at the conservatoire, indulging in a few beers and other substances before going out on the town, getting royally pissed and slipping on some horseshit on the cobbles on the way home. It's how Elvis might have sounded if he was European. Tracks like Gin & Tonic or Hot Shades go some way in proving that not only is the accordion not the world's most bizarre instrument, but it rocks too. Likewise, Simon Lenski pounds the hell out of his cello as if he were trading it in for firewood tomorrow. Adrian Lenski, replete with rodent-like facial hair, lurks behind a stack of keyboards whilst brother Buni makes with his fiddle like a guitar, thrashing it about all over the place and putting more passion into the performance than you'd see a normal lead guitarist. On form, these guys are the classically trained equivalent of ...and you will know us by the trail of dead.

Simon Lenski

Yet, almost inevitably, it's Buni that lets the side down. Life Transmission hints at an ill-advised eclecticism, dalliances with dub, hip-hop and beats predominate, and it's when this is presented on stage that the whole thing falls apart. Whilst songs like Merry Go Round on record are blighted by the presence of Ya Kid "Poomp Oop The Jayyam, Poomp Eeet Urrrp" K, live they throb and kick. But then DAAU end up taking the title of Piano Dub way too literally, and while clarinettist Han Stubbe downs his instrument and retires to work his extremely loud dub machine, the rest of the band drag out what is at best a tolerable song into a long dub workout that lasts the best part of twenty minutes. And whilst the stoned kids behind us love it, everyone else gets a little distracted after about six minutes and wait politely for it to end.

The reason for all this becomes clear right at the end: Buni, alone on stage after the rest of DAAU have left, stands, crucifix like, in front of the audience. He's clearly worse for wear - he disappears behind the keyboard and "treats" us to a little piano solo, before heading for the drums for a quick rhythm workout. It's difficult to know whether to laugh at him, pay him attention or just simply ignore him and feel embarrassed. Almost inevitably, it's the latter that the majority of the crowd decide to do.