Mavis's Dream Three




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picture courtesy Mandi Apple

Mandi Violin Apple wrote us such a great article on DAAU and sent Mavis so many pictures that we don’t have room for a proper headline. So just read the thing, dammit...

Let’s face it, up until about 1994 all Belgium was well-known for was Front 242, Plastic Bertrand, beer, chocolate and chips ‘n’ mayonnaise. But since the emergence and international success of dEUS in 1994, hailing from Antwerp in north Belgium, an entire musical vista has opened up. Those of you not completely au fait with the Belgian music scene of late will probably have never have heard of the name Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung (or, more widely pronounced ‘DAAU’, for obvious reasons). An entire new generation of bands have followed on from dEUS’s astonishing success, and at the forefront of this renaissance stand such names as Dead Man Ray, Zita Swoon (formerly Moondog Jr), Soulwax (who are just starting to break into the UK and USA), and DAAU.

However, it is a little hard to place DAAU in with the new crowd, as they cannot easily be categorised under any terms; the band itself not sharing the usual gamut of rock instruments as the rest, being a classical quintet composed of three brothers, Buni Lenski (violin), Simon Lenski (cello) and Adrian Lenski (piano), and two other classically trained musicians, Han Stubbe (clarinet) and Roel van Camp (accordion), all hailing from the highly-esteemed Conservatoire in Antwerp. Clearly not fitting neatly into the new MTV blank-generation category created by dEUS of ‘Cranky Euro indie-pop’, in fact if you search for DAAU records in any large record store, you are as likely to find the CD’s hiding in the Jazz section as you would be in the Classical, World or Rock section, as the music these five young virtuosi produce is a remarkable fusion of all these genres, and more, as they are just beginning to experiment with electronica and techno, flamenco and klezmer. Indeed any style or genre you can possibly name (and probably a few new ones they’ve invented) finds its place in their back catalogue.

Formed in 1993 at the Conservatoire by Roel van Camp, who, after some experience of playing with an industrial band, was looking for a backing band to accompany him, DAAU soon found themselves gaining in local popularity. After playing many gigs at De Muziekdoos, a kind of freeform busker’s bar in downtown Antwerp where dEUS themselves were formed (as were many other Antwerpenaar bands), DAAU came to dEUS’ attention by performing, along with their own original compositions, covers of songs by various local bands, including one astonishing reworking of dEUS’ first top international hit ‘SUdS & SOdA’, cleverly intertwined with one of their own pieces. dEUS loved the cover version so much that they actually released this version as an extra track on the USA-only re-issue of the song, and it wasn’t long before DAAU were signed up to dEUS’ original label, then called Jack&Johnny Records, but later renamed Musickness.

In 1995, the Anarchists’ eponymous debut album was released, to great critical acclaim. Featuring a completely instrumental, acoustic and originally-composed suite of pieces all named ‘Drieslagstelsel’ (or ‘crop rotation’ in English), the inner booklet also infamously boasted photographs of the band completely naked, which caused much consternation from the Belgian press, gained them a massive fanbase of 15-year-old girls, and garnered the band a very bizarre reputation of being ‘sex and drugs and rock’n’roll classical musicians’, something which almost sounds like an oxymoron, but actually works in their favour. However, classically trained though DAAU may be, the music they produced on their astonishing first album was anything but traditionally classical – an eclectic and seamless fusion of everything from ‘baroque folk stomp’ to jazz, klezmer, flamenco and rock. It is an album which requires some time and effort to acquire the taste of, but the returns are well worth the hard work.

After the release of the album, the Anarchists spent much time touring throughout 1995/6, supporting Moondog Jr and An Pierle on many of their dates throughout the Lowlands and growing in popularity steadily. Due to popular demand, the debut album, which had previously been quite hard to find as it had been released on such a tiny independent label and sold mainly at gigs, was later re-issued by Columbia (a division of Sony Records) with completely new artwork, as the record company objected to those naked photographs so much they refused to use them. Whilst touring, DAAU showcased some of their new material, which would later appear on their second album ‘We Need New Animals’, in which they demonstrated some of their new directions, increasingly towards a more reggae, dance and dub influenced sound, whilst still retaining all of the original values of the debut album.

During this time, DAAU had gained so much attention from the press and public in Belgium that they were offered a major record deal with Sony Classical. ‘We Need New Animals’ was released on Sony in 1998, and sold very well in the Lowlands, Germany and France, although not quite breaking into either the UK or USA markets; indeed, at this time, after a spectacularly catastrophic festival appearance in the UK on their first visit, the band swore never to play another gig on these shores, something which they have now thankfully retracted.

The album, mixed with Leeds-born Phil Evans (who later became their official sound engineer) and featuring for the first time a live drummer, and two vocalists (Angelique Willkie, ex-Zap Mama, and An Pierle, a rising star in Belgium), is a great development on the debut album. Using for the first time Han Stubbe’s considerable skills with computers, the album even features an ambient dance track with electronics (‘Gin & Tonic’), something which the Anarchists are working on developing even further to date. From the beautiful, almost-traditional classicism of ‘Broken’ (with An Pierle on vocals) to the reggae tracks ‘Oliphant’ and ‘Dip‘n Dodge’ (featuring Angelique Willkie), through the jazzy ‘Nix’ to the ‘Arabian handbag house’ (as described succinctly by Mavis Trickle herself on first hearing!) of ‘Hot Shades (My Medina)’, there is no style DAAU do not cover and master with ease. ‘We Need New Animals’ is an essential purchase for any music-lover’s catalogue, and sold very well across Europe.

After the release of the album, DAAU spent a great deal of time touring, and began work in earnest on writing for their latest album, tentatively titled ‘The Great Confusion’, which is to date still under construction in the studio. Early tasters heard prove that the band are experimenting further with dub and reggae, and Han Stubbe’s genius touch with electronics is being brought to the forefront, as they are now using up to 3 computers onstage, as demonstrated when the band supported The The as Matt Johnson’s special guests at Brixton Academy, London, in June of this year, finally breaking their vow to stay out of Britain.

The greatest development of all for the band this year, though, has to be the addition of their new fifth member, Adrian Lenski, on piano (the oldest of the Lenski brothers, and the most academically qualified, having just recently graduated, after 7 years of study, with a Master’s degree in piano and composition from the Antwerp Conservatoire). His formidable writing skills and experience should prove indispensable to the band, and take “…the car that tries to go in 4 different directions at once” (Buni Lenski) in a fifth new direction, as early signs have shown clearly. Adrian’s debut with the band can be heard on the DAAU cover version of ‘ShrunkenMan’, a song by The The which appeared on their CD-single ‘Interpretations: Issue 1’ back in May of this year. The track also features the first outing on record of Simon Lenski’s vocal talents in a kind of distortion-fest improvised rap which fits perfectly into the blend of heads-down-rock-out electronica and beautiful, passionate neo-classicism. Even Matt Johnson himself was reportedly so impressed with the band’s cover of his song that he insisted that DAAU be invited to support TheThe on some of their tourdates. Now they are playing more dates further afield and gaining greater press coverage outside of Belgium, more critics, musicians and rock kidz alike are becoming aware of this incredible, original, passionate, versatile and totally unique young band, who you can only categorise under the name of the first song on ‘We Need New Animals’ – file under ‘No Rule’.

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