Daedelus: Bespoke
Ninja Tune

Daedelus (real name Alfred Darlington) has been with us for long enough that one might almost expect to hear the Victorian dandy slowing down a little; however, the man's latest full-length, Bespoke (a term that refers to an item “custom-made to measure”), shows that, if anything, the exact opposite is the case. The recording is a mangy but nonetheless loveable mutt of eleven hyperactive songs, all of which bear the unmistakable Daedelus fingerprint. The always eccentric and at times decades-old samples instantly identify the music as his and no one else's, naturally, so it's not as if Bespoke earmarks some radical new direction. If there's anything that sets it apart from his previous releases, it's the album's consistently uptempo vibe and its live feel (apparently Daedelus purposefully worked more live instrumentation into the material than ever before). Bespoke's party spirit is also strengthened by the large number of guests who show up, among them Baths (aka Will Wiesenfeld), who appears on “French Cuffs,” and Kelela Mizanekristos, who appears on “In Tatters.”

The album's feverish pitch is evident the moment “Tailor-Made” rolls out its rave-ready dance fever. Yep, it's Daedelus in trance-house mode, dishing out a high-octane, clap-happy strut that's got party time written all over it. “Penny Loafers” pairs a lighter-than-air vocal from The Bird and The Bee's Inara George with wacky lounge vocal samples and embeds both within a seasick churn of hip-hop-inflected psychedelia. A major part of the album's rambunctious spirit can be traced to the contributions of Darlington's Uncle Pete (aka Pete Curry of surf band Los Straitjackets) whose drums stampede through many a tune. In places, his playing suggests he's channeling Keith Moon's untameable spirit, and there are admittedly a few occasions where a song threatens to spin out of control as a result. While Daedelus for the most part manages to avoid having his music collapse and splinter apart, there are times when density turns into incoherence, a case in point being “One and Lonely,” which sounds like three or four different songs fighting to gain the upper hand with no one of them emerging victorious. Busdriver's croon isn't able to prevent “What Can You Do?” from ending up as anything but a headache-inducing mess, soul singer Bilal barely manages to make himself heard above the maelstrom Daedelus conjures during the aptly titled “Overwhelmed,” and even when the tempo does slow, as it does during the electro-soul of “In Tatters,” the intensity and volume level remain firmly set to 11. One thing's for sure: after listening to Bespoke, no one'll accuse Daedelus of having mellowed.

May 2011