ONE OF LA'S BIGGEST MUSICAL SECRETS CONTINUES TO EVADE CLASSIFICATION
There's something unsettling about Daedelus's music. It's this feeling that something is breathing below the surface. Even when the artist is simply laying down music tracks for other artists to rhyme or sing over, Daedelus has a way of mixing old samples, found sound, and quirky instrumentation into a signature form that is both curiously alien and mildly familiar. Like an electric amusement park in slow motion, Daedelus best represents what could be the binary dreams of computers after their human counterparts unplug and shutdown for the night.
'People don't know what to do with me,' explains the man behind the Daedelus moniker, Alfred Weisberg-Roberts. 'I kind of feel like an anomaly.'
Over the last three years, Weisberg-Roberts has released a slew of material that runs the gamut of musical genres, typically blurring the boundaries between, say, hip-hop and electronica, or whatever his project maybe at the moment.
With recent exceptional work such as his genre-evading 2002 LP 'Invention' or his left of center hip-hop work with The Weather (a group also featuring Busdriver and Radioinactive), Daedelus has had a busy release schedule. Now, with even more projects on the horizon, Weisberg-Roberts continues to perplex his audience while maintaining his reputation as one of the most talented, if hard to pinpoint, artists to come out of Los Angeles.
'First and foremost, no matter what style I'm doing I'm kind of a romantic,' he says. 'I like really lush, lavish, and intimate sounds that have a sense of personality.'
It's not that Daedelus is simply the hip-hop guru that others have hailed him to be due to his brilliant work with artists like Prefuse 73 and The Weather. He's not merely an electronica artist as several critics have nailed him, either. Frankly, even Daedelus isn't quite sure what kind of artist he is, though for the record, he has been formally trained on double bass and bass clarinet and studied jazz at USC.
'The thing that's challenging about my situation is my voice in hip-hop hasn't really been given a critical viewpoint,' he says. 'It leaves me in this place where people don't know what to do with me.'
Despite the fact that his music is hard to classify, there is something intrinsically emotional in some of his complex compositions. While some may scratch their heads, others have found a surprising amount of empathy in Weisberg-Roberts's music.
'I've actually recently gotten emails from people in Puerto Rico and France ' places where I'd never expect someone to have gotten my records,' he said. 'It seems like I'll tell a really abstract tale through a song and some people will read into it the most wonderful meanings, thinking I'm right on their wavelength. They will respond in some of the most visceral ways.'
As emotionally connected as some may feel to his musical releases, Weisberg-Roberts also acknowledges that there is often a snide or satirical sense of humor underlying many of his projects. Last year's self-titled album by The Weather found Daedelus working with MCs known for their lightning quick, nearly nonsensical rhymes. Daedelus provides less than conventional hip-hop beats for the album while the lyricists smash political slandering and ad hoc imagery into some of the strangest, if not funniest, hip-hop that's been released. In place of breakbeats and ticking snares, 'The Weather' is filled with nursery rhymes and lounge-lizard bossanovas, as well as the aptly titled noisy track, 'Barely Music.'
'We were trying to make a fun record but also make a record that was saying something politically to a slight degree,' says Weisberg-Roberts. 'Most people think Busdriver and Radioinactive are saying gobbledygook, but really, if you look at the overall form of 'The Weather,' we're making a very satirical record.'
Based on the success of 'The Weather,' Weisberg-Roberts was asked by the album's label to release an entirely new record using the samples and material from the album. Released last month, the result is the new LP, 'Rethinking the Weather.' Though the album has recognizable samples and refrains, it sounds nothing like its rhyme-filled predecessor.
'It was incredibly difficult. The first thing I did was remove the voices. I had suddenly lost all of the driving points of the record and it was very confusing at first to see what I could possibly do to fill out the album. The songs took incredibly different characters.'
Most recently, Daedelus has collaborated with Frosty for a project titled Adventure Time. The duo's debut LP, 'Dreams of Water Themes,' is scheduled for release this month. With various guest vocalists like Saul Williams appearing on the album, the two DJs have carefully assembled an album that lightly glues itself together through the running motif of water. As exciting as the album project is itself (a 7' by the group is already generating a buzz), Daedelus found the dynamic of working with another DJ to be a unique challenge.
'I thought it would be hard to alter my sound to work with someone else,' he admitted. 'The way I work is kind of particular; I was worried it would sound too much like me. But it wound up working completely differently. The records Frosty was bringing and the ideas he had totally changed the scene.'
If it's not obvious by now, culling together the Daedelus discography is no small feat. Releasing such a plethora of material (there is plenty more well on its way) and having his work so widespread among labels only further causes confusion about what kind of music Daedelus is putting out. With several albums released on typically electronica-based labels like Plug Research or more hip-hop oriented labels like Mush, Daedelus is an alias that continues to defy classification.
'I think genre titles are unnecessary. I want to take the personal element to an extreme, so people can read into my music whatever they want to,' he says.
As diverse as his records are, Weisberg-Roberts likes to keep the process of creating music fairly simple. While admittedly a huge record collector ' around 8,000 at last count ' and quite knowledgeable about electronic equipment, Weisberg-Roberts prefers the least complicated of musical tools when composing his music.
'People are hungry for new effects to make their music sparkle. But if you make something timeless you don't need those effects,' he explains. 'Old Casio keyboards for example: they really only have one or two sounds that interest you. That's great because you have only one or two sounds to deal with. With more recent equipment, you have so many options. You stop creating because you're running through layers of programming stuff before you even get to a sound.'
When performing his material in a live setting, Weisberg-Roberts often triggers the library of samples he uses for his songs from his laptop computer; it is the simplest means for him to get his message across.
Whether it's a warbling voice from a 1930s record, a guitar solo, or even the hum of a printer (as featured on 'Invention'), Weisberg-Roberts finds musical inspiration in many places. With the Adventure Time LP, more collaboration with Busdriver, two new solo albums, and other miscellaneous projects all scheduled for release before the close of 2003, he continues to push musical boundaries at a breakneck pace.
'I'm happy to say making music hasn't gotten tiring yet,' he says. 'I really love sound and its limitations.''