Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung - Eight Definitions (2013)

Four years after their fairly subdued 'The Shepherd's Dream' album, Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung, commonly known as DAAU, are finally ready to launch a new recording. 'Eight Definitions' is the seventh album by the Antwerp based band in twenty years (at least if we ignore the 'Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain EP' and the rarities collection 'Ghost Tracks'). Recently, the guys also wrote the soundtrack for 'L'Hiver Dernier' (2012), a movie by the Belgian-American director John Shank.
Since their last record, DAAU's line-up has gone through some changes again. Cellist and founding member Simon Lenski has left the familiar nest in order to move to Berlin. Not only did his departure affect the group's musical dynamics, inevitably it also changed their sound. Currently DAAU consists of Han Stubbe (clarinet), Roel Van Camp (accordeon) and Hannes d'Hoine (double bass), but in concert the trio will be supplemented by drummer Steven Cassiers (a member of Dez Mona and Dans Dans), who was also actively involved with the recording of 'Eight Definitions'.
Cellist Simon and violin player Buni Lenski, who quit after 'Domestic Wildlife', both guest on the new album. Buni's contributions can even be heard on five out of the seven tracks. "DAAU remains like a family to us", Stubbe says. "Hence the Lenski brothers are likely to play on our future recordings, and they will continue sharing the stage with us whenever they have the time to do so."
The music on 'Eight Definitions' is rich in detail, but it sounds somewhat more minimalistic than on the preceding album. 'The Shepherd's Dream' came out of collective improvisations and boasted the vibe of a live show. DAAU's new album, on the other hand, is based more on the output of the individual musicians. All members introduced pieces separately and immersed themselves in a slightly more artificial sound world. "We look at 'Eight Definitions' as a cinematic trip", Stubbe explains. "The tracks are meant to take the listener on a journey, but they never force themselves on him/her."
For DAAU, the dark and brooding 'The Shepherd's Dream' marked a return to their roots: the music was a mixture of ingredients, taken from classical, folk, rock, tango, klezmer and flamenco. This time however, the band resolutely opted for a lighter approach. "Most of the compositions radiate a pure 'joie de vivre', Han Stubbe offers. "It is true that some of the tracks are drenched in a dreamy, even melancholic atmosphere, but we tried hard not to make them sound oppressive."
'Eight Definitions' is most definitely related to all the albums the band has released so far. '1992' for example, is a nostalgic glance at their early days. 'Anbau', with its energetic playing and distorted violins, seems to revive the period of 'We Need New Animals'. 'Delete Alt and Undo' shows a kinship with the bizarre electro of 'Life Transmission' and 'Feniks' could even have been an outtake from 'The Shepherd's Dream'.
"In a sense 'Eight Definitions' sums up two decades of DAAU", Stubbe says. "It's a sometimes wistful, sometimes ecstatic ode to the days of our youth. But at the same time, the music has taken on new forms and a different emotional weight. The big challenge for us, while finishing the album, was to avoid scrappiness and, despite the variety of references, to maintain stilistic coherence." That is why DAAU had 'Eight Definitions' mixed in Berlin by Boris Wildorf, the well-known producer of Einstürzende Neubauten. Wildorf showed a huge respect for the band's compositions, but was creative enough to imbue the record with his own personality.
DAAU's previous record had escapism as its main theme, but 'Eight Definitions' tells a totally different story. "We are living in dark times", Hannes d'Hoine emphasizes. "Every day we are dealing with doom and gloom and we are confronted  with an epidemy of negativism. Therefore we found it important to go against the grain and present the audience with an alternative. Instead of letting ourselves fall into a downward spiral, we believe the end of every cycle marks a new beginning. This explains why the artwork of our new album shows the image of a phoenix rising up from its ashes."
DAAU is a group in permanent transition. The members keep growing artistically, but do so without sacrificing their immediately identifiable character. As musicians, they acknowledge their past but at the same time they detach themselves from it. The bottom line however is that their work is defined by hope and vitality. To put it shortly: 'Eight Definitions' is a clear statement from a band not afraid to resist the spirit of the age.

(p) + © Radical Duke & Excelsior Recordings


DAAU came about in the early nineties as a part of the fertile Antwerp scene which also generated bands like dEUS and Moondog Junior, later Zita Swoon. Brothers Simon and Buni Lenski (on cello and violin respectively), Han Stubbe (on clarinet) and Roel Van Camp (on accordeon), all classically trained, were still in their teens by then, but with their predominantly acoustic music they immediately stumbled upon a sound of their own. They played their instruments with a punk rock attitude and a gipsy spirit, and from the word go improvisation became essential for their method of composing. Their band name, Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung, was taken from 'Steppenwolf', a novel by Herman Hesse, first published in 1927.
Shortly after their self-released debut album, the four piece was offered an international record deal by Sony Classical. This company would later re-release the first cd in a different packaging and the tongue twisting band name eventually got abbreviated to DAAU. On their second album, 'We Need New Animals' ('97), recorded with the assistance of Michael Brook, the group showed a different face altogether. It introduced hyperkinetic electro beats and the voices of Angélique Willkie (previously of Zap Mama) and An Pierlé. This experimental approach was not exactly what Sony Classical had in mind, which explains why DAAU eventually moved to Columbia.
On 'Life Transmission' (2001), Lenski brother number three, piano player Adrian, joined the ranks and the group started flirting with dub, funk, distortion and programming. For 'Mary Go Round' DAAU even brought in singer Ya Kid K of Technotronic fame. On other tracks some of the band members had a go at singing themselves. With the concerts of that period in mind, the line-up was temporarily invigorated by drummer Janek Kowalski.
Following the release of 'Ghost Tracks', a collection of rarities, the group more or less went back to its acoustic roots with 'Tub Gurnard Goodness' ('04). On this album DAAU also made some stylistic excursions to reggae and came up with a remarkable cover of Radiohead's '2+2=5'.
'Domestic Wildlife' ('06) was to show a more energetic and exuberant nature: through the addition of drummer Geert Budts and double bass player Fré Madou the band grew into a full-fledged sextet and now juggled with real rock grooves and jazzy colourings. Shortly after finishing the recording, Madou was replaced by Hannes d'Hoine. Buni Lenski would eventually make his way to the exit too, as he was about to move from Antwerp to Paris. In order to guarantee their artistic independence, in the early noughties the members of DAAU decided to start a small record label of their own, called Radical Duke Entertainment, which was to become an outlet for the first albums by, among others, Dez Mona.
From the very start DAAU took pride in its reputation for being an exciting live band. The musicians toured extensively in Europe, made a huge impression at prominent festivals in France, Switzerland, Hungary and Denmark and even gigged in Russia and Taiwan. Between the acts, all members of DAAU moonlighted in other bands: Roel Van Camp was (and still is) part of Dez Mona, Simon Lenski made an experimental cello record with Bo Wiget and entered into an alliance with the ladies of vocal trio Laïs. Together with Han Stubbe he was also involved with Prima Donkey and Donkey Diesel. These days Hannes d'Hoine can be heard with Ellen Schoenaerts and Blackie & The Oohoos.
In the meantime DAAU got the hang of writing soundtracks for movies, theatre productions and dance performances. Moreover, the group contributed to an album dedicated to the work of British underground stalwarts Coil. On stage DAAU worked intensively with French electrodub band Ez3kiel and Danish folk noir duo Murder. A show with the latter at the Danish Spot festival in 2008 blew away journalist David Fricke of American music mag Rolling Stone, who called it one of the weekend's highlights.
In 2010 DAAU wrote the beginning of a new chapter with 'The Shepherd's Dream', a bucolic album that demonstrated they were still growing creatively. When cellist Simon Lenski moved to Berlin, the band decided to go on as a trio, supplemented by guest drummer Steven Cassiers. This did not mean that the ties with the Lenski brothers were cut, however. Both are featured on 'Eight Definitions' and, depending on their availability, will continue playing live with their old friends in the near future.

Dirk Steenhaut