Daktyl: Cyclical

English DJ Daktyl's first album of originals suffers from a lack of conviction, but shines in short bursts.



Label: Mad Decent
US Release Date: 2015-04-21
UK Release Date: 2015-04-21

English DJ Daktyl, surprisingly Mad Decent's first signee from the UK, enters the EDM scene at a time when the sound has been co-opted by everyone from Madonna to Japanese girl-group Morning Musume. EDM sells you cars, movies, video games, package vacations, watches, wallets, and every individual part of a complete breakfast -- and, as it would be counterproductive for advertisers to go for new, potentially alienating sounds in their commercials, it's those who play it safe that are currently reaping the rewards.

To merely toe the line and contribute yet another album that sounds enough like Calvin Harris or Zedd to get some sweet, sweet licensing lucre may not be artistically rewarding, but it's hard to resist the allure of the kind of fat cheques that only come when Fortune 500 corporations' names are on them. So, did he take the risk and make something new, or did he make an album of potential background music for a particularly trendy Nissan commercial?

Ultimately, he did a little of both. Cyclical features a diverse range of styles (all falling, of course, under the broad umbrella of "EDM"), but the restraint on display has all the unfortunate earmarks of a producer who doesn't want to risk alienating anyone by going too far in any particular direction. Songs like "Haze" bear certain similarities to trap, but while they tease towards the genre's massive drops, Daktyl never commits. The build/drop down/rebuild structure is the verse/chorus/verse of EDM, and while the album's 11 tracks conform to this structure for the most part, the drops sound so restrained and muted that they often feel anticlimactic, like a power-pop group that's made the bizarre decision to mumble an anthemic chorus instead of belting it out.

Ultimately, Daktyl the producer (as opposed to Daktyl the DJ, who's just as in love with monster drops as anyone on the Ultra Festival lineup) is at his most comfortable when the atmosphere is whisper-thin, as on the airy, dreamlike R&B of late-album highlight "Temptress". With guest vocalist Pillars's softly cooed vocals and sparse percussion, the song is, at once, both out of step with the build-and-drop EDM it's placed alongside, and so obviously inside Daktyl's comfort zone that it's surprising the rest of the album isn't more like it. At times these songs feel like ghosts of the album that Daktyl wishes he was making instead, with the more straightforward dance tracks a handful of thrown bones to the fans who liked his DJ mixes and wouldn't have bothered with the album unless they were present.

Each of these vocal tracks rank as high points on what is otherwise a profoundly middling album, all suggesting that, despite his DJ pedigree, making EDM isn't actually Daktyl's greatest strength as a producer. When he goes in for a drop, he pulls his punches; yet when it comes to hazy dream-pop, he goes all-in. While none of the guest performers put in particularly exceptional work (it pains me to imagine how much better any of these tracks could have been with Frank Ocean or The Weeknd on them), his production is rock-solid.

One can only hope that, when the time comes to put out his next LP, Daktyl won't be afraid to stick to what he's actually good at.







How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.


Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.


Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.


The Chad Taylor Trio Get Funky and Fiery on 'The Daily Biological'

A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.


Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.


In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


Maestro Gamin and Aeks' Latest EP Delivers LA Hip-Hop Cool (premiere + interview)

MaestroAeks' Sapodigo is a collection of blunted hip-hop tunes, sometimes nudging a fulsome boom-bap and other times trading on laid-back, mellow grooves.


Soul Blues' Sugaray Rayford Delivers a "Homemade Disaster" (premiere + Q&A)

What was going to be a year of touring and building Sugaray Rayford's fanbase has turned into a year of staying home and reaching out to fans from his Arizona home.


Titan to Tachyons' Experimental Heaviness on Full Display via "Earth, And Squidless" (premiere)

Featuring current members of Imperial Triumphant, Titan to Tachyons break incredible new ground in the realm of heavy music.


Jerry Leger Teams with Moby Grape's Don Stevenson for "Halfway 'Til Gone" (premiere)

Reminiscent of Lee Hazlewood and the Everly Brothers, Jerry Leger's "Halfway 'Til Gone" is available on all streaming platforms on 6 August.


The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.