Dans Dans ‘Zink’ 2LP/CD (Unday) 4/5

Dans Dans is a thrillingly unique Belgian trio featuring Bert Dockx (Guitar, cassettes), Frederick Jacques (bass, synths) and Steven Cassiers (drums, percussion, synths). Since their debut in 2012, the band have enthralled audiences with their atmospheric, hypnotic, delicate, yet often explosive music. Refusing to be restricted to the usual guitar-bass-drums idiom, they construct their own musical universe, and this album clearly demonstrates why they are one of the most intriguing bands currently working in Belgium and far beyond.

Although until recently the band was known for their imaginative covers of the work of other artists (Ennio Morricone, Ornette Coleman, David Bowie,…), on their fourth album “Sand”, nearly all compositions were their own, and “Zink” continues in a similar vein, allowing the trio to use their writing as a launchpad for the improvisational exploration of an unheard spectrum of musical landscapes and emotions. Their imagination knows no bounds, with a heady mix of gorgeous melodies, soaring solos and spontaneously combustive improv filling the listener’s head with a multitude of guitar-led sounds.

From jazz, psychedelic blues and exotic noir soundtracks to spacey rock ‘n’ roll, there are so many different styles and genres influencing Dans Dans’ music, it’s difficult to imagine it all fitting together well. And yet it does, with intelligence and panache. Their highly distinctive, intuitive mix of music has enabled the trio to build a solid fan base since their inception with limited edition runs of early releases becoming collector’s items among vinyl enthusiasts. Well-received appearances at Cactus Festival, North Sea Jazz and Pukkelpop, as well as Gent Jazz, Ljubljana Jazz and Jazz Middelheim have confirmed their reputation as one of the most unique and exciting bands to come out of Belgium. In recent years, the group has also been touring throughout Europe, garnering enthusiastic reactions beyond the Belgian borders.

Dans Dans’ music is filled with contrasts. Imagine being stuck inside a David Lynch movie, where subtlety collides head-on with extravagance, where light infuses darkness, where melancholia breaks into bliss, and where sincerity burns deeply alongside playfulness. The shape-shifting music on “Zink” is engrossing and rewarding. Like a cult classic, the Americana-hued, almost quaint melodies of “Cinder Bay” soon break out in a Jimi Hendrix style underworld of dark feedback and ensuing exploratory sound. “Naiad” also begins in a light, airy fashion, its gentle bass riff enveloped by Bill Frisell-esque guitar textures. The groove solidifies as drums and guitars increase in power, leading to a distorted, fever-pitched finale. The moody, atmospheric “Blue Silver” is a Marc Ribot style meandering journey, classy, off-kilter guitar interwoven with distorted bass and special effects that set the heart pumping. Exploratory and yet still incredibly listenable, the trio achieve an excellent balance throughout the album, with “Anemone” continuing the mood of eclecticism. The slow-burning “Sleeper” entices the listener with its cool, kinetic vibe, and the wonderful “Revine” brings back memories of an early 70’s Pink Floyd, successfully manoeuvring its way between beauty and beast. The beatific “Shell Star” is an infectious exploration of hypnotic grooves, atmospheric electronica and mind-bending melodies. The closing piece “Wrist” exemplifies what this trio are all about, with its explosive mix of guitar, bass and drums, perfectly integrated with a cool weirdness that defies the rule-book.

Spellbinding musicianship and incredibly inventive writing and performance are at the helm of this intoxicating trio. Everything gels, with a genuine feel of musical togetherness shining through with ambition and quality equally matched.

Mike Gates