[23 June 2006]
After a string of strong releases, the producer known as Daedelus seems to finally be coming into his own. The Mush label has been percolating under the radar for quite some time, presenting a wide array of diverse artists under the general rubric of forward-leaning hip-hop and downtempo music, all the while building critical steam with every consecutive release. Given the recent prominence of instrumental hip-hop in the electronic music community, as seen in the high profile of artists such as Diplo and Z-Trip, the time is ripe for a producer of Daedelus’ caliber to take his place at the forefront of the scene. Denies the Day’s Demise is a strong enough contender that it could conceivably be a breakout record for both artist and label.
A lot has changed since Jack Dangers first stormed the studio as Meat Beat Manifesto. The sample-rich style of production that Dangers pioneered, along with folks like the Bomb Squad and the KLF, took the act of stealing bits from other peoples’ records and elevated it to a hypnotically dense artform. Of course, it’s not as easy now as it was when the Beastie Boys first pressed Paul’s Boutique—just ask the KLF, who were forced to recall an entire album—1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?)—or Biz Markie, who faced similar legal challenges to his album I Need a Haircut. But the idea of creating music with these techniques didn’t die. DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…, perhaps the finest recording ever created with the exclusive use of samples, became ground zero for a new generation of DJs and producers who learned from the legal predicaments their forefathers had faced in order to forge ahead with a new, far reaching approach to the ideas of making and listening to music.
Denies the Day’s Demise contains strong elements of South American and Caribbean rhythm, referencing the au courant baile funk but more explicitly the samba and bossa nova. In much the same way that the shuffling Latin beat influenced dancehall to create reggaeton, Daedelus mashes the halting percussion with overt electronic elements to create an intriguing hybrid. A track like “Nouveau Nova” contrasts a frenetic bossa nova beat with the kind of acidic 303 lines you would expect to hear from latter-day Aphex Twin. The mixture of electronic elements with analog samples creates a refreshing density of field that makes for engrossing repeat listening.
“Samba Legrand” takes the samba backbone and welds an almost-cheesy synthesizer refrain to it, creating a dichotomy between the old-school rave sound effects and the home-spun percussion samples. “Dreamt of Drowning” takes the trick a bit further, chopping the halting Latin rhythm in such a way that it becomes a loping jungle refrain, adding vintage jazz orchestra samples until the composition seems almost divinely balanced between percussive tension and smooth release. “Our Last Stand” takes the merest skeleton of a samba rhythm as a departure for enormous waves of synthesized sound, quite similar in effect to early Autechre or u-Ziq.
There’s always something going on throughout the entire course of Denies the Day’s Demise. “Lights Out” takes an extremely familiar drum loop—sounds like “Funky Drummer’, but I could be wrong—and tweaks it with a bit of Brazilian soul, using the juxtaposition of the old-school hip-hop ethos and the traditional samba sound to pleasing effect. At 15 tracks and almost an hour, the album never wears out its welcome. There are many albums of this sort that seem to buckle under the weight of constant novelty—Z-Trip’s recent debut is a good example of a mostly instrumental hip-hop album that is simply too jam-packed to gain traction as a distinctive statement. But the predominantly Latin rhythms give Daedelus a convenient focus for his energies, preventing him from loosing the precision that makes the album such a brisk and personable experience—it’s a rare thematic conceit that works. He even sings, on the album’s final track “Viva Vida”. His voice isn’t much to write home about but it’s an affecting gesture. The entire album comes across as a pleasingly intimate expression, without once seeming cloying or precocious. This is an extremely confident achievement, and it deserves as wide an audience as possible.