Daedelus – [Album]

Thursday, 07 February 2008

L.A.’s Low End Theory weekly event at The Airliner definitely tips a hat towards the avant garde receptivity of 1920s Surrealism. Low End is notorious for being a musical experimenter’s Mecca. Rock, hip-hop and electronic groups merge in a whirling dervish of sorts as their music is juxtaposed with live art and video projections.

It’s no surprise then that the ascot-wearing gentleman producer/artist known as Daedelus chose to release a live album from his July 2007 appearance there. The IDM surrealist has always seemed astute and upright in photos though. Not the kind of guy I would expect to hang out at dance clubs. So when I first thought of him performing live it seemed tantamount to an English butler trying to politely ask everyone to freak out. Daedelus proved that I was full of hot air.

The L.A. musician’s labyrinthian samples cascade and pour upon his stream of consciousness breakbeats on Live At Low End Theory. Where his recent albums never seemed to match the creative fire present on 2002’s Invention, this release aims to take some of that tarnished luster back. Invention was a debut worthy of the Grecian artificer Daedalus (slightly different spelling). Like his ancient namesake Daedelus imprisons his samples into a kind of labyrinth old King Minos would approve of wholeheartedly.

Since then Daedelus was threatened to be put on the IDM yawn-list (or mine at least) despite his intriguing but flawed Surrealism experiment with hip-hop musicians on Exquisite Corpse. I started to forget about Daedelus, shelving him under “inquisitive but stale tinkerer.” “He’s not on the level of Autechre or the transcendent Amon Tobin,” I said to myself. With Theory I’m starting to eat my own words.

Like Tobin has done so furtively well on many releases, Daedelus manages to net some of the emotion of non-electronic music. A penchant for hip-hop propels his experiments with the ritualism of samba and the musical non sequiturs of sampled movie classics and gauzy snippets of game-show music.

“Put A Spell” starts with helium vocals and crickets. A foreboding sample of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” descends into the mix before a video game music break down. “Cast A Wish” is a fuzzed-out rave song that samples a pronounced girl-guy countdown that’s perfect for the dance floor. "Press Snooze" uses the sample from Daedelus’ "Like Clockwork Springs," previously heard on 2006’s Denies the Day's Demise. The rhythm is propelled by something that sounds like a coughing car engine trying to turn over. The outro of “Press Snooze” features electronic machine gun bursts and a Dopplering found-sound beat of a large sheet of metal wobbling in and out.

When futuristic synths bristle the ether on the seamless transition into “Samba Grandly,” hiccupping machinations turn into tiny tornados of sound.

“Disco Disco Disco” has so many beats and counter beats but remains airy with its feathery samba vocals. Screamin’ Jay returns on the outro as an ominous presence only to be skirted away by the showtunes-piano playfulness of “Play It Again.” “Arouse Suspicion” has beautiful cinema classic strings propped up by glitchy tech house beats. On Theory, Daedelus is not as scatterbrained in his production; now less interested in showing off his abilities of layering dozens of samples over each song, looping them around and speeding them up like a storm chaser—he creates a record with only a few gimmicks.

Throughout the album Daedelus showcases his ability to tie his dozens of samples into a tapestry that only fails to entertain at the end of the 45-minute set. His shows aren’t anything to look at but this album makes up for any shortcomings.

Daedelus is usually perched behind a table. His custom-made Monome, a trigger box hooked up to his Powerbook, shoot out his dance tunes. This release belies that meager image. Pretty good for a guy that wears clothes like he’s a character from Clue.

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