Daedelus – Invention


Although we intuitively know that the popular music of one generation tends to become the trash of the next, it’s obvious that each produces something worthwhile (although I’d be hard pressed to cull much of anything from the last five years of teen-pop and rap-rock that falls into that category). Disco, new wave, and grunge will probably continue to come back in various incarnations, but few have chosen to delve much farther than the 1960s when they choose to cop the sound of a previous era. Los Angeles experimental electronic artist Daedelus breaks with these conventions with Invention, drawing the majority of his samples from records released in the 1930s and 40s and creating something entirely new in the process.
Even though the 30s and 40s were the fertile foundational years of what became the recorded legacy of country, blues, and jazz, the pop records that were released in those years haven’t survived with quite as much fanfare. Generally, they seem to be syrupy and overly sentimental, full of swelling strings and overly lush arrangements that would fit well playing in the background of a Disney movie from that era. Further, there seems to be an understated melancholy feel in those old arrangements, equal parts maudlin romanticism and chilly pensiveness. Regardless, the melodic material, however overstated, is usually solid on some level, and Daedelus recognizes that if taken in small doses – a sampled bass clarinet phrase here or a big band chorus there – they can be paired with electronic beats and filled out with synthesized melodies to create a very unique effect. It’s really quite ingenious.
For example, the dainty, overly florid samples in “Muggle Born” are quickly de-beautified with some well-chosen electronic abstractions, a process that the 16 tracks are continually undergoing. The overtly jazzy beats and majestic waterfall piano lines of “Astroboy” sound like they were lifted out of some late night sci-fi lounge, while the toy piano, rudimentary percussion, and accordion “Experience” seems to incorporate few samples at all. Further, the deep sense of drama found in tracks like “Pursed Lips Reply” seems to be starkly underscored from the electronic underpinnings, creating a tension that isn’t exactly unsettling but generally leaves your interest piqued. Overall, the set works as a study in contrasts, with the ornate sampled arrangements always being in danger of disappearing under the sparking electronic beats or Daedelus’ added textures, whether they be synthesized sounds or computer printers.
So, even though you can definitely see many similarities to other artists working within in the electronic genre, only a small number have chosen to sculpt their sounds with such ingenuity. Not only has he bridged generations as few electronic artists ever have, he has arrived at a final product that seems to borrow equally from both. In the process, Daedelus has created a strangely affecting quality in a form of music that can occasionally be far too emotionally stolid. Taken as a whole, Invention fits together like one big seamless statement, consistent in mood and aesthetic and powerful in its singular vision.