Sounds Like: Daedelus at The Empty Bottle

Dan Willis

So I had the good fortune trekking down to Chicago last Tuesday for a show featuring the L.A.-born soft-spoken sweetheart and eccentric samplemeister Daedelus. And let me just say, he put on a hell of a show.
Daedelus, a.k.a. Alfred Weisberg-Roberts, fresh off the release of his lush and good-humoredly ironic “Throw a Fit” EP, is on a nationwide tour with fellow Mush labelmates Caural, Thavius Beck and Anticon loop fiend Dosh.
Fearing no sound or style, Daedelus’ electronic hip-hop leaning productions run the gamut of emotions and moods from reflective, brow-furrowing ruminations to euphoric, love-sick romps. The diversity, depth and unceasingly close eye for detail of this boy wonder present a beautiful tapestry of music that evolves listen after listen.
You’ve always got to wonder how electronic music will translate into a live performance. The artist could take the route of Kraftwerk, standing motionless at a laptop leaving the audience to wonder if they are hearing a live performance or merely a CD playing. On the other hand, the performance could be a flurry of knob turning, iBook clicking, wire tangled invention.
A laptop provided the sounds Daedelus needed to construct his dense and emotionally resonant music, while a 16×16 grid of blinking buttons gave him the dynamic and flexible interface with which to put on an interactive and thrilling live show.
Each row of the grid was assigned a sound coming from his laptop, and the sound would light up the next light in the row as it moved to the next beat. By pressing one of the buttons he could stop the sound on a beat and repeat it rhythmically, and with both hands involved, he had sounds interacting in new and spontaneous ways.
During his well-paced and exciting continuous 40-minute set, Daedelus rarely explicitly regurgitated anything from his albums. He impressively worked in samples of campy ’50s women’s choirs against a backdrop of souped-up hip-hop beats that bordered on deep house at times.
He would let the ’50s ladies sample play through once, and then he went to town deconstructing it, using his grid-o-chaos to make them sound like your grandma trying to imitate Eminem.
And just as quickly as the goofy choir sounds appeared he would swap them out for a soaring stadium techno riff that could have been lifted straight from an “Ultimate Techno” compilation. A bass clarinet groove might appear next as part of a layered tripped-out two-step street beat.
There was no guessing what Daedelus might pull out of his bag of tricks. While lesser artists might make such diverse sampling sound like an eclectic junior high mix tape, Daedelus executed all of his genre-bending, bargain-bin-raiding escapades with the utmost coherence, danceability, and brain-tickling effect.
My only gripe is that at a few points during the performance he had the opportunity to plunge the audience past moderate head bobbing and into limb-flailing dance floor bliss, but he seemed to lack the killer instinct that a club DJ might have honed from learning to read when a crowd is ready to head toward the peak.
Besides my unfulfilled desire to dance into oblivion, Daedelus surpassed what I thought possible in a live performance of his clever and emotional compositions.