Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review + Spotlight: Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung! - We Need New Animals (1998, Sony Classical)

I've had a "crush" on these belgians' music for some years now.
Their first album is still my favourite.
What follows is a short introduction to the band as well as a review of their second album, We Need New Animals.
Here's the bio I wrote about them in their Prog Archives entry:

DAAU - featuring a rock-attitude and spirit with classical instrumentation and an experimental spirit

Created in 1992 in Antwerp, Belguim, the group of four consisted of two brothers, Buni Lenski (violin) and Simon Lenski (cello) and Han Stubbe (clarinet) and Roel van Camp (accordion).
They garnered much attention and enthusiasm around them in their many live shows and even grabbed the attention of dEUS and even played on a track in their second album, SUdS & SOdA.
Their name comes from the book "Steppenwolf" by Herman Hesse:

"Anarchistische abendunterhaltung!
magisches theater
eintritt nicht für jedermann
nur für verrückte
eintritt kostet den verstand"


"Anarchistic evening entertainment!
Magical theater
entrance is not for everyone
only for the insane
entrance costs sanity"

Having come out of the conservatory, they went on to create their music: their music is almost entirely instrumental (depending on the album), classical instruments are their "weapons" of choice and thus their music could be described as neo-classical, with eastern folk influences, some klezmer touches, jazz and with each album they venture with different experiments: they started incorporating a rhythm section and on Life Transmission (where a third Lenski joins the band, Adrian on piano) they even made a hip-hop song Mary Go Round with Ya Kid K doing the singing.

There is gradual evolution in their sound from their first album to Life Transmission. There is shifting in both instrumentation; starting with an entirely acoustic and classical dominated lineup to an electrified sound as they record We Need New Animals in which they have undergone a remarkable transition in style to more upbeat rhythm and more rock-driven pattern. Then Life Transmission was recorded which represents another shift with the type of experimentations done and the sounds and influences they incorporate in their music.

With Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain (an EP that was written for a modern dance by choreographer Thierry Smits and Compagnie Thor) the band began "going back" somewhat to the early sound of theirs, the more classical oriented approach, which is further exemplified in Tub Gurnard Goodness and Domestic Wildlife yet they still show the band's uniqueness and creativeness, which is not forsaken at all.

This is what is written in the band's Myspace about Domestic Wildlife:
"This is the very first time extra musicians were involved in the whole process of rehearsal, composing, recording and production of a DAAU album. What remains, is the unique cinematic character and musical poetry of DAAU's music. New and innovating are the danceable rock grooves and jazzy undertones who leave enough space for subtlety, tristesse and small bits of electronics that make this album a total progressive anarchistic package."

DAAU does indeed progress with each album, always creative, always experimenting with new possibilities, never stagnating.

Most recently DAAU have written and performed a soundtrack for a documentary movie. Their Myspace explains it:
"DAAU Performs 'Our Daily Bread' !!!! In March 2007 DAAU was asked to make a live soundtrack by the Documentary 'Unser taglichen brot' for the Unheard film festival in Amsterdam. The film is a registration of the food-industry by the Austrian filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter."

In 2010 they released The Shepherd's Dream, which sees them returning a bit to their older roots in terms of instrumentation and sound, but not approach and style, as this is not as accessible and straighfroward an album as the first one. 

DAAU, while not easy to pin down their sound and not conforming to rock norms, do indeed boast a rock attitude in their music. The influences combined in their music and the experimentation done in each album and the progression with each one, makes this band a fascinating group to follow and listen to. Progression is indeed embedded in their nature.

Here's the review I wrote for their second album, We Need New Animals

DAAU got new animals for this album

Their first album got them many praises and a recording deal with Sony and this album came out through the Sony Classical label. However this one differs from the all acoustic and classical lineup that was their first album, in that the band electrifies their sound on some of the tracks, by adding guest musicians to play with them.

The album starts with No Rule, in a similar style to the first album and indeed the general sound and style does not differ too much from their previous release, only the tracks are generally shorter. This is in fact a natural progression and advance from the first album, and the adding of electrified instruments sits very well with their sound. This will also serve as the grounds for the following album, Life Transmission where the experimentation goes further and the sound and style varies more.

The second track, Hot Shades, is of the same nature as the first, starting with an accordion roaming about sort of unsurely; then the clarinet comes in to aid him; they then proceed to speed up and catch a rhythm and play a wonderful tune; then comes the first sign of change for the band, drums with guitars come in and add the real rock here with some programming coming in later. Where in the first album I found myself shaking my head at some parts due to great rhythm, here it’s just unavoidable. DAAU knows how to create groovy patterns and catchy tunes. The gypsy-like melody is infectious. The classical and rock lineup go extremely well together, naturally and in fact, this made me want to hear more of this type of collaborations, as well made.

With Nix, no hesitation; it starts right away with high energy and with the full expanded lineup. Again the eastern European feel to the music, excellent musicianship and upbeat mood.

With Broken comes the first full sung track in their repertoire with vocals done by An Pierlé. Here they show how well they can create a song that bears all their trademarks of a melancholic tune, with a sharp edge in the chorus, playing along to a vocal line. Moreover, the song has a great twist to it where the vocals and instruments sing and play together splendidly. Indeed, DAAU seems to know how to adapt to any platform they need to be part of. This is even more evident in Life Transmission but also here.

With Gin & Tonic, comes an interesting mix of programming and the classic instruments lineup. If Gin & Tonic which go quite naturally together, these two would perhaps seem to be opposing elements; but again, DAAU knows how to mingle seemingly opposing “substances” together. The mix comes so natural, I wasn’t even aware of it the first couple of times I’ve heard it. Not only that, but the music is simply beautiful and inspiring. Oliphant has traces of a French charm with the accordion played that particular way and with the sort of tune they play which is somewhat playful. It then goes on to much more aggressive and powerful peaks than DAAU are known for; another achievement in this album. The guitar riffs are definitely heavy in this short segment. Speaking of a French scent, it is Waltz Delire that reminds me even more so of the French charm with the accordion, and also of a movie soundtrack; of an emotional scene between two lovers in the street with a short chase between the two as they go on arguing… but that’s just my imagination. This is one marvelous tune, wonderful in its ability to induce emotions in me, the listener. I particularly love the acoustic guitar playing towards the end with the violin providing the rhythm pace. This track is a good lesson in how to write a short and effective tune without overdoing it.

Dip ‘n Dodge, another song, reminds me of the song In The Death Car by Iggy Pop and Goran Bregovic. Again they create a lovely and naturally sounding amalgam between elements.

Lady Delay is a fun short track where they employ the programming to create a spacey atmosphere and then in the middle switch to a bumpy ride and back again. This is probably the farthest away from the sound of the album, and still remains “faithful” to it.

In this album, DAAU managed to progress from their brilliant first album and add another musical palate to their array of styles. They introduce a rock lineup to add to their sound, electrify it to add layers to their music and end up with a wonderful and compelling result.

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