D.A.F. (band) - Style

Style

The first two D.A.F. albums featured the original four-piece line-up and a range of styles. Some songs on Die Kleinen und die Bösen (The Small Ones and the Evil Ones), featured thrashed guitars, electronic screeching, and hammered drums while Gabi screamed and ululated. The record was widely lauded by the British music press, and earned the group an early cult following in the UK.

As their sound crystallized into a more rhythmically intense and minimalistic style, Gabi and Robert ejected the other members, who had become superfluous both musically and in terms of the chemistry within the band. On the later albums recorded by the remaining duo, the arrangements were sparse and heavily electronic, the singing evolved from abstract screams and mumbles to a very direct, rhythmic vocal style, and their live performances were delivered with such intensity that a 1980 concert in Düsseldorf had to be stormed by the police to bring the crowd under control.

The third full length album, Alles ist gut, was recorded entirely by Gabi and Robert working as a duo, and displayed the distinctive D.A.F. formula. Robert played drums — usually fairly simple and relatively unsyncopated patterns, but with simple variations that prevented them sounding robotic — while Gabi sang. The only other instruments used were Korg MS-20 and ARP Odyssey analogue synthesizers usually driven by a Korg SQ-10 analog sequencer, with an Oberheim OB-Xa added around the time of the album Für Immer. Typically only a single sequencer-driven line would be used for a song, the sequence functioning both as melodic accompaniment and as a bassline. The song Der Mussolini is a perfect example of this. On other songs, such as the title track, certain notes of the sequence were set slightly out of tune. Overall the songs entail a complex tension between the predominantly visceral (the voice), the relentlessly robotic (the 16-step sequences), and the drums, which lie somewhere in between. One song, Der Räuber und der Prinz (The Robber and the Prince), also features a Glockenspiel-like sound as a sinister reminder of childhood.

This was uncompromisingly minimalist pop. The next two albums, Gold und Liebe (Gold and Love) and Für immer (Forever), continued in the same vein, until, as one British music journalist of the time put it, D.A.F. had exhausted all the possibilities of the 16-step sequencer. These possibilities ranged from something resembling rhythm and blues — you could just about play Der Mussolini as R'n'B if you wanted — to the microtonality of Im Dschungel der Liebe (In the Jungle of Love) (on Für immer) or Knochen auf Knochen (the B-side of the single Sex unter Wasser). These three albums (from Alles ist gut to Für immer) were all produced by Konrad "Conny" Plank, who was renowned for his pioneering work both with minimalist-influenced Krautrock bands and other experimenters in the 1970s, and with electro-pop artists in the 1980s.

After Für immer D.A.F. split up for approximately twenty years, except for a brief reunion in 1985 to record 1st Step to Heaven, their only album in English. During this extensive period their historical importance began to become clearer. Legendary radio DJ John Peel went as far as to call them the Grandfathers of Techno. Both Robert and Gabi had solo musical careers, with Robert becoming a respected techno artist in his own right. Gabi Delgado also recorded two albums as DAF/DOS ('Dos' here referring to the Spanish word for 'two').

When DAF reformed for the 2003 album Fünfzehn neue D.A.F-Lieder (15 New D.A.F-Songs) their style had shifted to a fusion of the classic Plank-produced D.A.F. sound with elements taken from Robert's techno work. The drums were replaced with crisper electronic beats, but the ARP Avatar and, of course, Gabi's vocals remained in place.

As a lyricist, Gabi's concerns throughout D.A.F.'s recording career have ranged from sardonic reflections on ideology and political violence, to journeys into a very physical, even brutal, sexuality, sometimes related from a child's point of view. Having grown up as the child of working class Spanish immigrants in the Ruhr Valley, and coming of age in the politically polarized era of the German Autumn (his response the left wing extremist terrorism of that time being thematized in the 2003 song "Kinderzimmer (Heldenlied)", he was blunt and unromantically detached about social reality in West Germany, and unapologetic about the provocative potential of his songs.

As performers and media personalities D.A.F. were, much like New York's Suicide, forerunners of later 1980s techno-pop duos, such as the Pet Shop Boys and Soft Cell, in that the singer (in this case Gabi) appears relatively extroverted while the one who plays with the electronics (Robert) appears quiet and reserved. Visually, at least from Alles ist gut until 1st Step to Heaven, they cultivated a homoerotic image of black leather, muscles, hairy chests, and sweat. Gabi's hairy chest made a comeback appearance in the 2003 promotional video for Der Sheriff, a song about the George W. Bush administration.

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