Daedelus

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Daedelus ditches the screens and strengthens his roots on his 19th album Taut

Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom August 8

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By Michael Chary
Photo by Valeria Cherchi

This era of information can be a gift and a curse — technology’s interminable stimuli keeps us informed while pulling in every direction, begging for a response. And while its innovations have allowed the limits of sound to be stretched endlessly, our connection with its source occasionally falls loose.

Now with his latest studio album Taut, Alfred Darlington, a.k.a. Daedelus, is attempting to tie up these loose ends, creating his multi-faceted synthetic sound by traveling down fewer digital avenues.

In the past, Darlington was known for helping to pioneer open-source, interfaces including the monome, and the eponymous Delaydelus; a crunchy sampler with built-in delay. But for his live iterations, Darlington is casting aside as much of the digital modalities as possible, reaching a more minimal production for maximized audience connection.

“For my live shows I’m all modular, I’m trying to get rid of laptops, or screens really, more than anything else,” Darlington told The Marquee in a recent interview. “I think in general we’ve divorced electronic music performance from stage shows for a long time, so it’s kind of cool to have frank conversations with audiences about what’s actually happening because there are a lot of performers who still don’t do much on stage.”

In addition to eliminating that digital glow which has almost come to be expected at a live electronic performance, Darlington has strived to simplify his style – though not sartorially speaking of course.

“One of the reasons I’ve stopped using laptops and moved to modular is because I’ve found that the laptop, even hidden away, was a screen that I almost expected my social media to pop up on,” Darlington said. “I felt like audiences when they saw that on stage, that glowing apple on the back of my laptop, their mind does not go to a place of wonderment and possibility, it goes to, ‘Am I checking my Facebook,’ and I don’t think that has as much place in the club as we’ve given it.”

Despite his dissidence from the orthodoxy of what has become the average electronic performance, Darlington says he’s finding inspiration in the roots of the genre, harkening back to early foundations, of which he says he was never necessarily fond of.

“This Taut record is full of moments from house and techno and it’s music I’ve been swimming in for a long time, but I never was a 4:4 kid,“ Darlington said. “And obviously there’s a big revival for house and techno, but I think a lot of it is slightly ignorant of its roots, which is fine, it’s hard to innovate and move forward if you have too much cognizance of the past. But it was more like revisiting my own records that have these breakbeat numbers on them, but they also often have dirty, beautiful, house-y kicks. We’re talking like the New York and Detroit stuff; the underground resistance, the rebel music I wanted to be an undercurrent to this record.”

But true to his style, the album is far more nuanced than a revamp of classic electronic themes. Darlington has brought in an eclectic array of artists to help him focus on the confluence between jazz’s current renaissance and the prominence of EDM. On Taut, jazz phenom Jonah Levine lends his brass flair, as Darlington foresees a meteoric rise in his future.

“This real bridge between electronic and jazz is here now, both of them promise creativity — with electronic music that’s most often in the soundscape, and with jazz, it’s most often with the notes you’re playing,” Darlington said. “You can kind of get through any chords, through any kind of idea. But they both sit really close to each other and are reflections of the same mirror, so to speak. And jazz is having a really wonderful revival right now, people like Kamasi Washington and Thundercat, and I would put Jonah right up there with them, it just hasn’t yet been his time, but it’s brewing. It’s all going to happen.”

Darlington would be one to know, as his career has seen the release of a multitude of albums, Taut being his nineteenth. But that’s where he maintains his sanity in a rapidly evolving industry that’s toddler-like attention span demands incessant feeding.

“The first records I put out, I didn’t know any better and I love that. I used a lot of samples, there were tons of sample choices, and I knew in my heart that it was an illegal act – taking people’s sound and trying to find my voice in it – but there was still a moment of that, where you know you’re like breaking the laws of man,” Darlington said.

“But I loved finding creativity in that and trying to challenge people with big concepts and conceits. A lot of my early records are about really specific ideas and they’re telling stories in this way and I still do that, but now I find that more often through my own fingers and the creativity of my peers. The people around me who I want to build up. I stood on a lot of shoulders to make the music I made, and now I really want to be shoulders that somebody else can stand on. Being 19 records deep I feel like I’ve had many lifetimes in this industry and I feel very lucky but also like I’ve been cheating death for a long time.”

And over the course of those years, Darlington has seen a lot of change. In a world where DJ culture can feel like a parody of itself, with repetitive and contrived personas, Darlington is a breath of fresh air. Always donning unique outfits that conjure an image of a bespoke 19th Century gentleman, Darlington’s style is like no other. And even when that image landed him on the front page of Reddit – the internet’s largest bastion of haters and trolls — Darlington rolled with the punches and embraced its positivity. “The kindness lasted, in my heart, the loudness came from people who called me out in good ways and were kind of speaking up for me. The kindness was immense to me, it was really intense.”

Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom August 8

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