One listen to Bespoke confirms that the mind of Alfred Darlington, better known to us as Daedelus, remains an extremely busy place. If anything his musical invention is even more fertile and colourful than ever.
Darlington, it seems, is still obsessed with the clothing of the Victorian era and the music of the future – and both come into play on a record crammed full of incident, colour and energy. For Bespoke he again enlists the help of a few friends, with roles both spoken and sung for Busdriver, Baths and Bilal. But this record is all about his uncanny ability to look back with reverence and forward with anticipation, his musical eye flitting restlessly this way and that as if in need of a fresh style to conquer.
That implies a disregard for long term structure, but in reality Bespoke fits together like one of his sharp suits. The early burst of euphoria that is Tailor-Made is a high octane opener, soulful house injected with rich swirls of harmony that would seem to derive more from a love of John Coltrane than anything else. As a paean to a beautiful summer’s day it takes some beating.
The rest of the album continues in a similarly positive vein, with heady whirlpools and striking vocals, though there are times of brief reflection amongst the organized chaos. Chief among these is the striking In Tatters, where vocalist Kelela adds a strong dash of Purple Rain-era Prince to a Daedelus production that wouldn’t sound out of place in an M83 set.
Elsewhere the exotic Suit Yourself blooms with its luminous brass, while Penny Loafers, featuring Inara George of The Bird And The Bee, acts like an enchanting potion with a strongly persuasive vocalise. Each track seems somehow to conquer a different style, the linking threads being the vivid colours, rich textures and positive lyrics, delivered through the body of energetic and intoxicating vocalists.
The more you listen to this record, the more it falls into place and traps you under its spell. In bringing together his mastery of different styles Daedelus is killing two birds with one stone as he pays homage to the music of the recent past – Funkadelic and Prince in particular – but keeps one eye firmly fixed on the future. All this is achieved whilst clearly having fun, and it proves an easy task for the listener to join him, whether wearing a sharply tailored suit or a ropey old pair of jeans.