HEREOS OF THE HEARTFELT
Plug Research labelmates Dntel and Daedelus are known for crafting experimental songs that illuminate obscured background themes with a dreamy, emotive glow. Dntel's latest, Life is Full of Possibilities, combines dense, glitchy electronic moments with cascades of indie-rock guitar. Dublab.com DJ Daedelus has just released Invention, a work of richly sweet melody spliced to defy genre. Brought together here in an exclusive dialogue, the two producers talk about being hopeless musical romantics and chasing the fleeting perfection of That Moment, whether remembered or imagined.
Daedelus--It's really all about trying to recreate a moment that feels fluid, and [not] forced. It's especially tough for the electronics, trying to make something feel haphazard...
Dntel-- ...When you're in total control of every tiny sound...
Daedelus--Total, absolute control! I've started working with more vocals, with MCs, and it's fantastic that someone can carry my music to some unexpected other place. I'm still sorting out what having vocals means. They take on such a different dimension in electronic music: do you treat them like a sample, or have them riding on top? It's thrilling, experimenting: everything's free, and you get to just pillage and plunder.
Dntel--You can work on your own with it, and still make a full, big sound. And it's so immediate.
Daedelus-- That immediacy comes through to listeners as moments in time. I like how you use a lot of everyday sound sources, like the [sound of you] rummaging through things...
Dntel--It's to make it more spontaneous, so there are more surprises in composing that you don't get sometimes when you're putting every sound exactly in its place. I like to run around with a minidisc recorder and the use that sound in a random place a couple weeks later, when I don't remember exactly where it's from. It's the same sampling from records, just putting down the needle somewhere and making it fit into the song instead of shaping the song around the sample. So you get a lot more unexpected melodies.
Daedelus--I kind of do the flip-often I'll search through records looking for that one moment that'll move me somehow. And then I try to go about isolating that sample and finding the world it lives in by itself, just throwing things at it and seeing what sticks. And I love the idea of taking a sample, some little sound in the background, and stretching it out to infinity, until it's really visible, or repeating it until it's nauseatingly simple, and you can get the full moment out of it. One thing I've noticed about your work is that you find ways of taking these commonplace casual sounds, and you make them really big, warm and full. Do you think your music sounds epic?
Dntel--In my head it is. Your sound is really intimate.
Daedelus--Well, I use things like toy pianos and instruments...It can be so tough to be secure with this kind of stuff, this grand experiment that you constantly do in the studio. I don't know sometimes how people can still strive forth with experimental, intimate music and just present it in this package--we're taking the music so far from the dance floor sometimes...
Dntel--And it's a lot more heart-on-your-sleeve type music, whereas a lot of experimental electronic music seems almost critic-proof by being so cerebral-if you don't like it, it's because you don't "get" it. But with the stuff we're doing, there's just a lot more human emotion, which seems much easier to cut down.
Daedelus--And sometimes if listeners don't come up with a scenario for the song somehow, and don't make internal connections with it quickly enough, they're just going to dismiss it. I hope that we're telling stories--really strong, visceral stories-to people, whatever stories they end up being. What kind of stories did Life is Full...tell?
Dntel--It was sort of based around this feeling of impending doom, but in a romantic way. It's the idea of lying on the side of the road, dying after a car accident, and this music is playing in your car-it's what's taking you out of this world, what gives your life its final meaning. So there are a lot of pretty melancholy melodies going on, but then it also sounds dizzy, like you're losing consciousness, or drowning. Just this fading out of the life you're in, but in a hopeful way...
Daedelus--I feel similarly. A lot of my music is about a fleeting moment, the kind of thing where you hold desperately on, but memory fails and the notes fail and you're trying to remind someone of that moment, of absolute and glorious failure. I really like the idea of the apocalypse, the grand end where you can just have--as awful as it sounds--this nice finality that can just be wonderful.
Dntel--Every song ends up being sort of about love for me. I watch a lot of bad TV, and I like that feeling of watching someone else's romance, knowing that it's right because it's a TV show and it's written that way. You don't get that in real life--nothing ever seems right in real life. So the music is more about making my own reality instead of dealing with the real one. It's its own life with its own rules.
Daedelus--It's really that moment where you recreate that imperfect perfection, some minor part of heroism from everyday life.
Dntel--Since you're making this world, you can decide what the absolutes are, and you can have a real love that you know is a fairy tale, and you don't have to doubt it.
Dntel is working on a new project, The Postal Service, with Ben Gibbard, lead singer in Death Cab for Cutie. Daedelus is producing an album for Mush Records featuring MCs Radioinactive and Busdriver. His first album, Invention, is available on Plug Research. Both producers are contributing to Headset, an upcoming Plug Research project, as well as a Simball Records compilation of 45-second songs by various artists.