Last night I went out with J & M to see Laïs perform live. It was my first time seeing the ladies perform their magic live, and I was looking forward to it. No matter how many hours you've listened to their work on CD, a live concert is always a different experience. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
After meeting up with J & M we headed off to Mechelen for a nice dinner in D'Afspraak, a small bistro close to where the concert was taking place. A good meal of steppegras later, the clock had struck 20:15 and we headed out to the venue. When we arrived we found out that 20:15 was not the time to open the doors, but rather the time the support act started playing. J & M had already seen Maskesmachine on a previous occasion, but I hadn't. The name rang a bell, but that was about it. Both of them were not all that impressed with them last time, and the term "they suck" was mentioned quite a number of times. I wanted to see them anyway and with an open mind, so we snuck past the already closed doors and into our designated seats.
What can I say... Maskesmachine is experimental, strange, silly, yet they seem to enjoy themselves a lot. At certain times I felt I was watching ballet, then I was submerged into a wall of sound, with folk, jazz, some electro and rap influences. Maskesmachine reminded me of some Bjork songs, where sounds that are totally unrelated are mixed and piled on to of each other to create something new. If I was to get to know the band based on just their latest CD "Ge kun et", I probably wouldn't have been too impressed, but their live performance was just too energetic and joyful to forget like that. I kind of like silly music and pretty girls, and they got both bases covered. Douchke pakken?
After the support act, it was time for the main course : Laïs. I was told upfront that their latest CD was going in a very different direction then their previous work, but I hadn't heard it yet. Which was good, as it once again - just as with Maskesmachine - allowed me to sit down and enjoy the music open minded and without prejudice. The folk songs in old Dutch and French are not gone, but they have gotten a number of siblings with a more international sound in English. Instruments are increasingly used as well, and while they play a larger part in the body of the different songs, the angelic voices of Jorunn, Annelies and Nathalie remain the main ingredient : the most versatile, powerful yet delicate instrument of them all.
Those of you that have never really listened to Laïs before, may like this "The Ladies’ Second Song" album (their 4th already) because it's easier to get into. Listeners that are used to the older work may wonder what has happened for a moment, but will then realize that this still is Laïs, and that they have evolved. Where they were mostly folk, they now have added rock and electro to their mixture, delivering a yet unheard sound to their listeners and fans.
I recall listening to Douce Victime : at first I was shocked to hear how they had put that many French songs on the album, how their style had changed. After listening to the CD in the car for days - weeks even - it has become one of my favorites, and I see the same thing happening with The Ladies’ Second Song, no doubt about that.
(Added later) The Cat Power album "Jukebox" comes highly recommended by me as well. I'm listening to it as I add my review to this entry and am impressed. I think it's a superb album to listen to while using the ipod waiting for your train. It'll carry you away and take you onto a musical journey, yet drop you right back off where you started. Don't blame me if you miss your train though, blame Cat Power ;-)