1 is (as the name suggests) being marketed as the first solo LP from Gabi Delgado-López, the legendary vocalist for Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, the veracity of that claim largely depending on whether you consider his 6-track 1983 release Mistress an album per se. Either way, it’s worth noting that Delgado’s musical output hasn’t been terribly prolific outside of DAF and a few side-projects. 2014 would seem to be a good a time as any for Gabi to put out a solo record: his place in the pantheon of influential electronic musicians has been stable for some time and his relative inactivity has kept his stock high. Given all that, 1 isn’t a revelation, nor does it need to be;
it does a fine job of speaking to Delgado’s legacy in the world of electronic music by dipping into various genres he’s had a part in building.
Of course when it comes to genres (and specifically the ones steered by DAF’s mix of pounding drums and 16th note basslines), it’s all in the ear of the beholder. “Friede den Hütten Krieg den Palästen” could be an uptempo hard techno number or a slice of speedy body music depending on who hears its squelchy synth bass and 808 kick. Same for “Tanzen Brutal”, you can practically hear someone yelling ACIIIIIID even as Gabi’s dispassionate teutonic growl provides a human counterpoint to the mechanized rhythms. Still other numbers hint at styles one wouldn’t particularly associate with Delgado’s legacy; “Traum” and “Spieglein Spieglein” rock a funky house vibe complete with hummable basslines and twinkly leads, “Die Neuen Barbaren” has dark pads floating over programmed breaks for an ominous, soundtracky effect.
For all the shifts in style all of 1‘s songs are cut from the same sonic cloth, simple basslines, pounding drums and analogue washes for good measure. It’d make for a useful primer in how arrangement of elements can create different songs out of the same elements, but Delgado remains the attraction throughout. He never quite reaches the level of aggression of his oldest material, preferring to play the suave european on “Nichtgedicht” or the deadpan lothario on the “Science Fiction Liebe”. It’s not a tour de force set of performances, but they feel appropriately pitched to each individual track, half sung, half-chanted but never staid or limp. Delgado’s voice is the star attraction here, and the album is constructed to allow him some room to move around and apply himself in some different ways.
1 makes for a pretty solid listen throughout, genre expectations notwithstanding. To be honest I’d much rather Delgado put together a record that nods to his past and explores some of the territory that he helped navigate towards than one where he vainly attempted to recapture past glories. In music writing ‘mature’ is generally code for ‘boring’, but in the case of this LP it speaks to a real truth about the artist and the work itself. This album built on a history of some 30 years, and is not an attempt to reach an apex, but to explore some of that legacy. It’s strength is in Delgado’s acknowledgment of what has come before, and in his willingness to be in the now.