Alfred Weisberg-Roberts AKA Alfred Darlington AKA Daedelus is one of the most prolific and respected producers working in electronic music today. His output alone is enough to inspire awe (15 albums in 13 years). Not all of those tracks are gold. For the ones that aren’t you have to respect his decision to follow that path, even if the results weren’t as enjoyable as the journey it took to get there. This can be said for 2011’s Bespoke; whilst a good idea (baroque meets LA dance culture), the results were as patchy as getting a jacket tailored at the local launderette.
In the years since, Daedelus has released another album (2013’s Drown Out) and has just recently released his 15th album, The Light Brigade (I did mention he was prolific). The Light Brigade finds Daedelus on a new path. The album is loosely based on that electronic staple - The Crimean War. The opening of the album quotes Lord Alfred Tennyson’s epic poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’. While this seems like an unique theme for an album, it isn’t the first time Daedelus has written about it- 2010’s The Rigteous Fists of Harmony was loosely based on the Boxer Rebellion. In all honesty this is the best album about a Russian tradegy since the Bee Gees 'Odessa.'
Daedelus has always incorporated glitchy samples and beats to his music, but this time he has taken a more folktronic route. You could never accuse him of writing bangers (Fair Weather Friends excluded); slightly introverted, quirky, thought provoking electronica is his MO. This is the order of the day on The Light Brigade, expect that it sounds more acoustic and organic. These instruments have been processed, manipulated, tweeked, but the lack of bass boost, keyboard loops and synthetic hand claps makes it a refreshing listen. Lead single 'Onward' is the apotheosis of this new sound - and the antithesis of his previous work. Its five minutes of dreamlike vocals, melancholy piano and woozy bass. In honesty it sounds like nothing else in the cannon of Daedelus’ work. At first I found it’s lack of drive annoying and vocals slightly tedious, it just wasn’t going anywhere, but after a few listens I was drawn in to its fragile, beguiling beauty.
The rest of the album is like this. Once you crack the code it becomes one of the most listenable albums I’ve heard all year. While the Light Brigade possibly isn’t album Daedelus intended on making, its change in direction (musically) makes it more interesting than his last few. A change of musical direction can sometimes be a kiss of death, but this time it appears to have reinvigorated him. If this is the new Daedelus, I’m all for it and can’t wait for what he does next.
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