Album Reviews

Daedelus – Exquisite Corpse

(Ninja Tune) UK release date: 7 March 2005

For those of you not quite au fait with Surrealist parlour games, the term ‘exquisite corpse’ originates from the game more commonly known as Consequences. This involves a group of people taking it in turns to write down part of a sentence before folding over the top of the page, thus concealing their contribution, and passing it on to the next person who writes, folds the page over and so on.

The end result once the page is unrolled is a stream of seemingly unrelated words and phrases (ie ‘exquisite’ and ‘corpse’) which you can either attempt to force some sort of profound meaning upon or laugh at hysterically as absolute gibberish.

Eccentric beat merchant Daedelus takes a similarly haphazard approach to music, throwing seemingly disparate elements together to create a rich stew of sound that often lacks cohesion or logic but attempts to make skewed sense out of nonsense. Opener Dearly Departed demonstrates this from the off as fractured jazz noodling and random noises are overcome by a sweet berceuse which drifts in and out of earshot while a dawdling, fuzzy bassline adds some much needed warmth.

Impending Doom then combines forties film strings with cha cha hip hop drums, electric guitar and rap before Just Briefly stutters its way to life with snippets of soul, sweeping orchestral chords and a heel-kicking ballroom dance beat vying for attention.

These vague aural collages hang loosely together and are at times hyperactively manic but even calmer moments like bedtime lullaby Now And Sleep lack any great level of coherence or direction. However, the Pacific coast-dwelling North American with a penchant for Edwardian clothing, does create some more lucid and, by virtue of this, more accessible moments and they prove the most inspiring.

The hyperventilating Rolf Harris-style human beat box on the relaxing Thanatopis is joined by acoustic guitar and Hrishikesh Hirway’s gently delivered hippy lyrics, while Sent Off / Sus Percoll starts with the usual potpourri of samples before evolving into a mellow, upbeat, electro buzz, forming the high point of the album. Some of the numerous collaborative efforts also seem to offer some reinforcements to Daedelus’ armoury, most notably the simple downtempo number Welcome Home featuring Prefuse 73 and the laidback raps of Cyne on the sun-kissed Drops.

But overall, on first listen, this is like standing midway between two stages at a festival with sounds competing rather than complementing each other as juxtapositions of jazz, Hollywood string samples and deep-bassed electronic interference create a cacophony of noise rather than clearly defined tunes. The end result coming across like a cracked and fragmented DJ Shadow. But with repeated airings the opposing parts gradually begin to merge together and, like a musical magic eye picture, the ideas slowly come into focus the chaotic sonic mess.

Exquisite Corpse is not so much a collection of tunes as musical textures, layered tapestries of freeform noise where melody is often made to appear accidental and seemingly incompatible sounds try to acquaint themselves with each other. Sometimes the best albums are those that do not quite make sense on first listen and take time to understand and appreciate. If you have the time and enjoy hip hop with a twisted, abstract slant then Exquisite Corpse is an album well worth getting to know. If not you can always gather some friends together and get your dose of surreal fun through pen and paper instead.

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More on Daedelus
Daedelus – The Bittereinders
Daedelus – The Light Brigade
Daedelus – Bespoke
Daedelus – Righteous Fists Of Harmony
Daedelus – Righteous Fists Of Harmony