D.A.F. – Das Ist DAF (Grönland Records)

A myth, back in vinyl

Grönland Records has released a Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (D.A.F.) compilation, containing their four seminal albums accompanied by the extra material of new recordings and remixes. It is the rise of the German act formed in Düsseldorf as a band in 1978 and moved to London in 1980. A period in which they became a duo and one the European precursors of techno, pioneers of EBM, a secure entry for the Industrial music and an edgy representative of the art-punk by 1982, featuring Gabriel “Gabi” Delgado-López (vocals) and Robert Görl (drums, percussion, electronic instruments).

“Das Ist DAF” reissues in vinyl the four albums released in a short time span of eighteen months between 1980 and 1982, unavailable in this format since the ’80s. The Deluxe 5LP Box Set includes “Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen,” (Mute, 1980) and so-called “The Virgin Trilogy,” that is to say “Alles Ist Gut” and “Gold Und Liebe,” both released in 1981, and “Für Immer” (1982). Alongside it comes a 12-inch with remixes by Giorgio Moroder and Boyz Noise and a 7-inch with two previously unreleased songs, plus all the goodies expected in a set like this, from lush booklet to poster, original D.A.F card, slipmat and download code.

Like every retrospective, this one serves to memory and dignifies the singularity of a band to call it influential. Approaching the 40th anniversary of formation, D.A.F. is related to the late seventies and the early eighties, a challenging time when everything was about to be transformed into new conventions. Everybody was moving to other places where to grow with new ideas, and some musicians left guitars away to plug into new devices.

“Das Ist DAF” offers a part of that move. It is a musical portrait of a band that made an artistic an physical journey coming from Düsseldorf, the unassumed Mecca of German futurist and avant-garde music since the late ’60s when Krautrock licensed itself from Progressive with electronic treatment in a motorik pattern. From the early seventies, Düsseldorf was the place to go for refreshing and daring new ideas. Just to mention the famous, David Bowie and Iggy Pop were in the city before moving to Berlin. Brian Eno collaborated with Harmonia as a previous step to concentrate later in Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy” albums.

D.A.F. is Düsseldorf to the bone, like Kraftwerk and Neu!, but, contrarily, they had spread ears to the UK post-punk. They were part of a bunch of a scaping mover from what they considered established (Kraftwerk) or the old (Neu!). D.A.F. is undoubtedly Düsseldorf but belongs to the edgiest side of it, the one it opened the Ratinger Hof in 1975. It was the headquarters of a new generation of punks acts, where D.A.F as well Die Krupps, La Düsseldorf and Der Plan all started to become part of “Neue Deutsche Welle.” At the time of its opening, Kraftwerk was breaking up in the USA with “Autobahn” (1974) and “Radio-Activity,” (1975). They were bound to stardom and writing a new chapter to conceptualize in the musical history. In the meantime, Suicide (Alan Vega and Martin Rev), the American correspondent to D.A.F. concerning the synth-pop duo’ forefront aesthetics, was looking for its place of understanding going from rioting show to another, from Mercer Arts Center to Max’s Kansas City to CBGB’s.

The “Hof” in Düsseldorf, like the legendary Bowery Club in NYC, was a counterplay. “Hof” bands like D.A.F. were Düsseldorf kids familiarized with the UK explosion of post-punk, from Wire to Siouxie & The Banshees. They sang in German as a sign of affirmation and to break with the English spoken domination of music. They loved the punk attitude, but instead of expressing it in two guitar chords for few spit words they took synths and sequencers to modulate the energy. The first cheap Japanese synths (Yamaha and Korg) came up with a helping hand to the pocket. It was a jump, an as natural or unnoticed process as immersed they were in the “Zeitgeist,” the backdrop, the musical legacy of the city.

“Ein Produkt der Deutsch-Amerikanischen Freundschaft” (1979), D.A.F.’s first album, was an apocalyptic sum of untitled instrumental tracks though, having vocalist “Gabi” Delgado left the band temporarily. The first ever show of D.A.F at the Ratinger Hof was in February 1979, months before the release of David Bowie’s “Lodger,” the third and his final Berlin albums. The show was no electronics at all but a noise-driven guitar set. That year, Margaret Thatcher began with the neo-liberal era while Joy Division made an impressive step into post-punk with “Unknown Pleasures,” as well as Cabaret Voltaire’s debut, “Mix-Up,” was about to release.

The “virus electronicus” inoculated to the “Neue Deutsche Welle” conglomerate of bands was the birth of the second generation of electronic artists, in this case, drafted in punk. The trend was in the UK creative net already, but the German input’s peculiarities of it did impress the always perceptive British brains for the new. Daniel Miller signed D.A.F. to Mute, and the rest is history.

Along with Kraftwerk, D.A.F. accomplished the challenge of being German singing act in a restrictive music industry dominated by English. The two icy dressed in leather germans were a provocative portrayal of fighting taboos in Genet tradition, and their Nazi imaginary made a staged Teutonic fantasies’ sarcasm model of themselves. Gabriel “Gabi” Delgado López (son of Spaniards immigrants) took his learned German-speaking as a matter of creative. Suspending his sentences off the hammering, precise and guttural German speech with obsessive and repetitive words, he brought the key to a new musical patterns development, wrapped up in sequencers and fitted in a new synth’s regime. Their dour image was pioneering a new way of love songs, punchy social statements, and irony invocations to sex. All this compiled in “Das Ist DAF.”