The Long Lost: The Long Lost
Ninja Tune

VA: Friends of Friends Vol. 1 (featuring Daedelus and Jogger)

In which Alfred Darlington collaborates with wife Laura on a collection of chansons d'amour that sound only tangentially like the skewed, hip-hop sampledelica he issues under the Daedelus name. Distilled in simplest terms, The Long Lost creates delicate electroacoustic lullabies that've got more in common with Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso than Madlib and Flying Lotus. The pair—high school sweethearts who met in the school band (he on double-bass, she on flute)—formed The Long Lost in 1998 but for whatever reason needed another decade before issuing a full-length collection. Note first that the album is a true collaboration with both contributors equally involved; though Alfred is obviously the more established of the two, he not only shares the spotlight with Laura but more often than not cedes it to her, given that the listener's attention naturally gravitates to her voice as the immediate focal point (at the same time, many songs feature the pair's entwined vocals). Though the material generally feels acoustic, an undeniable electronic dimension is present too in the abundance of interjections and samples that surface throughout.

The material's “Brazilian” character asserts itself immediately in the opening “The Art of Kissing” when Laura's soft voice rides a lilting, acoustic guitar-driven rhythm, and then when Alfred's voice joins in, as if in mimicry of a long lost ‘60s samba. Appealing in its natural, uninflected simplicity, Laura's voice here and elsewhere rides convincingly the songs' syncopated rhythms. Those listening closely will hear Daedelus touches subtly woven into the songs, in particular the frog-like vocal noises behind Laura's graceful vocal in “Amiss” and the eroded orchestral samples that form a syrupy backdrop in “Siren Song” and, in general, off-kilter arrangements, such as the jam-packed one in “Sibilance,” which threaten to teeter out of control without ever quite doing so. Daedelus-like too are the bass clarinet that threads itself through a thicket of acoustic guitar picking and breathy vocals in “Overmuch” and the kalimba and music box that take turns refracting a Satie melody during “Wobegone.” Filled as it is with rambunctious breakbeats and samples, “Ballroom Dance Club” occupies a middle ground between Daedelus and The Long Lost. At times, the material gets a little too close for comfort—the mundane details enunciated in “Domestics” makes the listener feel as if he/she is sitting at the Darlingtons' breakfast table—and sometimes a “less-is-more” approach brings the greater reward, a case in point “Colour” where little more than a bass guitar and the duo's encoiled vocals are needed to cast a magical spell (even the song's lyrics—recitations of the title's letters—are minimal). Mix together airy alto flute punctuations, a near-whispered vocal melody, and dreamy chord progressions and you just might be lucky enough to end up with something as enchanting as “Past Perfect.” This oft-charming album obviously adds a striking new colour to the Daedelus picture.

The first volume in the Friends of Friends series, on the other hand, gives us new samplings of the wacky sounds Daedelus has issued over the years. A bit of explanation is needed before turning to the tracks themselves: the concept driving FoF's inaugural release is that an artist signs up to do a split EP, then invites another to complete it, and commissions a designer to create the EP's artwork on a t-shirt; the package also comes with a download card that grants access to the release and a slew of exclusive remixes. On this outing, Daedelus grabs the opening slot with three cuts and then passes the baton to Jogger, comprised of Amir Yaghmai and Jonathan Larroquette who play in The Long Lost and appear on Daedelus's Exquisite Corpse.

“C'est Super” drops us into classic Daedelus territory where samples of a nightclub crooner (“To all you ever were, never were…”) and crackle-drenched strings time-travel to a ‘70s disco where pounding dance beats, female vocals, and disco strings get busy. A Billy Corgan sample (“tonight”) whispers over lush acoustic melancholia and charging beats in “LA Nocturn,” after which “Off to the Races” blazes in an African-electro-inflected gallop for three minutes. Obviously the wild card in this context, Jogger gets things off to a good start with the bumping electro-funk squiggle of “Nice Tights” (though one hopes that the cheesy vocal--“Look at your lady's eyes, look at your lady's face / She's dancing around, she's on the dance floor”--is meant ironically) and “Litre o' Cola,” an electro-house raver that gives its epic synth theme an equally epic rhythm pounding. What a shame, then, that Jogger's almost unlistenable third track, “Nephicide,” leaves such an ugly aftertaste, dominated as it is by overblown guitar playing and a drawled death metal “vocal.” Two out of three ain't bad, I suppose.

On the remix front, Michna and Eliot Lipp work their magic on “C'est Super” and “LA Nocturn,” respectively, with Michna's a predictably snappy arcade-funk overhaul and Lipp's funky treatment elevated by his trademark synth work. Jogger's “Nice Tights” receives four makeovers of varying stylistic design: Thunderheist's Grahm Zilla transforms it into a club-ready slab of electro-techno, Keenhouse also-clubby mix riffs on the original's electro-swing essence, Mexicans with Guns opts for equal parts serious head-nod and techno freneticism, and Nosaj Thing slows it down to a dubby crawl.

April 2009