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Daedelus - Bespoke

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Artist: Daedelus

Album: Bespoke

Label: Ninja Tune

Review date: Apr. 26, 2011

With his characteristic mix of good humour and expertise, monome-maestro Daedelus has devised yet more unique material on Bespoke. The album’s theme, is Alfred Darlington’s penchant for Victorian gentleman’s dress and the tailoring such a passion entails; Bespoke nicely doubles as a metaphor for his own custom-made genre forms. Bespoke fuses romance and adrenalin, and at times touches the sublime. At other times, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve two tracks playing simultaneously, as on the testing "French Cuffs," in which tempo and mood change more than once and where vocals by Anticon member Baths are the advancing, rising light leading one out of the mire of strings and gabba beats. This chaotically brilliant underlying complexity surfaces again in works like “One and Only,” where the voice is the figurative calm above the choppy waters of rattling rhythms and electronic interjection.

Throughout Bespoke, industry and dream collide in multi-layered, generally feel-good sounds that explore several shades of music at once. The astute ear can hear traces of folk, Brill Building and glam, even some medieval canonical references. The gentleness of Arthur Russell-esque layering and the fearsome force of Fritz Lang’s imagined Metropolis explode in track after track of experimental precision, all reminiscent of the very physical gestures that mark the movement of a Daedelus performance.

Bespoke features plenty of collaboration and considered composition and at times feels more like an epic film soundtrack. It’s an impressive list: Milosh; Inara George (of The Bird and The Bee); Baths (a.k.a. Will Wiesenfeld); Kelela Mizanekristos; Bilal; Busdriver; Om’mas Keith of Sa Ra (keys on “Suit Yourself”); and Young Dad (Amir Yaghami). It even features Darlington’s uncle Pete, who plays in the surf-rock band Los Straitjackets, on drums (check out the delightful claves on “Slowercase D”).

Combined with Darlington’s visionary vocals and counterpoint melodies, the sum of those parts can at times, be trying. That said, it’s nice to hear Darlington move in this gentler direction (best exemplified on “In Tatters,” “Overwhelmed” and “Slowercase D”). Emotion prevails on Bespoke. The strange but intriguing mix of avant-garde operetta, synth-pop and Latin Carnival (“Penny Loafers”) will leave you humming and dreaming of brightly coloured things.

More than anything else, one gets the feeling that Bespoke exists to defy categorization and manifest that essential need to live as a unique being, no matter how inevitable the factory-churning repetition of prescribed lifestyles may seem. In other words, to never live off the rack.

By Fari Bradley

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