Almost a year ago, I refused to buy Douce Victime by Flemish sirens Lais because it was on one of those shiny non-CD CDs that EMI puts out routinely. (I am currently refusing to buy the solo album from Kaizers Orkestra main man Janove Ottesen for the same reason, and am very worried about the forthcoming new Kate Bush album. Let’s hope that, like Pink Floyd, she can use her clout within EMI to put a stop to that nonsense.) However, this has never been an absolute boycott – instead I consider ShinyDisks to be severely devalued by the playback problems they cause me and the need to (irony of ironies, all is irony) make backup copies immediately after buying them because the so-called copy protection technology breaks the error correction track and makes the disks much more damage-prone. If a CD like that gets marked down, I think about buying it again. Douce Victime is currently on sale, so I got it.
It’s an interesting record. There’s more material from the girls’ extensive collection of the bleakest songs the Flemish tradition has to offer, plus another Jacques Brel piece, “Marieke”. Once again, they create the impression of historical Flanders as a dismal place in which life was nasty, brutish and short, especially for orphaned girls without kith or kin. The trio’s strident voices and dissonant harmonies (the first time I heard them, I needed some time to wrap my brain around the concept of what sounded like a Finnish vocal group singing in Dutch) give these songs the effect of an ice cold shower.
My favorite tracks, though, are the more upbeat ones like their cover version of a jem from my childhood: Herman van Veen’s “Opzij”, in which they go completely over the top with the vocals, breaking up their sweetly dissonant harmonies by singing in canon over a giddy country beat with ditto fiddles.
I’m not sure if I like the record’s big production. Compared to their earlier work, it sounds wrong somehow. It’s a Lais album, not the Alan Parson’s project, and I’m not sure if engineer Andrew Powell (of APP and Kate Bush) has realised that.
Overall, I’m enjoying this one, and I’m a bit frustrated that I can’t seem to find the record on Amazon US or Amazon UK. Amazon UK only has the girls’ 1998 debut album with no cover art or track listing info. Order that one instead. Emmylou Harris wants you to.
They’ll be playing in Groningen in less than a week. I found out just in time through seeing a poster for the concert in Vera when I was at a concert by the Amsterdam Klezmer Band, who, by the way, are also not to be missed.