Daedelus – Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse

One of the most difficult things about Daedelus is figuring out where his muse is. Where the hell does this guy get off? His sample-heavy productions have touched on orchestral music, jazz, and hip-hop, though he works mainly within an electronic artist’s framework. His peers are equally difficult to decipher. Sampel-holics like DJ Shadow and Avalanches come close, as does the recent work of techno-hop prodigy Prefuse 73, but all of these comparisons do Daedelus (nor the artists in question) no justice. One thing he is is persistent: Exquisite Corpse, his fourth proper album, still mines the sonic noir of 40s and 50s easy listening and classic hip-hop. A slew of guest artists, including MF Doom and a host of other underground darlings, separate Exquisite Corpse from his other work.

The inclusion of a straightforward rapper like Doom further complicates Daedelus’s genre problems. Not being able to attach an easy label to an artist is usually a compliment, but mixing genres to the point of confusion is no great feet. Doom’s track, the unfortunately titled “Impending Doom,” is a happy enough marriage: Rococo strings and old movie recordings make Doom sound like he’s rapping over the entirety of Done With the Wind, and this (somehow) isn’t a problem; here he drops an uncharacteristically quick verse, keeping pace with the whirlwind strings. Mike Ladd and Prefuse 73 both help out on “Welcome Home,” another standout that finds a tight-lipped Ladd eating up a laid back breakbeat with little stabs of tremolo’d keyboard. Some cut-up, icy jazz voice sings the hook and everyone’s happy.

Other appearances, such as when French rap trio TTC, make island-flavored mincemeat out of a beat that Daedelus could’ve put on cruise control two albums ago, and these are less successful. “Drops,” a Cyne collaboration, fails to break out of the hip, lounge-y jazz-hop that Mos Def and Talib Kweli have both already made careers out of. The straight-up Daedelus tracks range from “eh” to “alright,” not because they aren’t skillful, acrobatic readings of whatever music strikes his ear at that point, but because they fail to improve on his prior work. If anything, they seem less nuanced, focusing less on weaving several melodies and more on keeping the beat in the front of the mix.

Daedelus is a master at what he does, and what he does is different than virtually everything else around him, but he’s playing a little too close to the vest here, trading much of his style for a little more beat.