I’ve always wanted to be able to start a review with the word WOW! It’s so simple and to the point. With the amount of hype floating about before tonight’s show I was really hoping that this might be the one; it’s not, but please don’t let that put you off. Tonight was the European debut of Daedelus’s new AV set up “Archimedes”, an AV system like nothing I’ve ever seen before, a bespoke stage backdrop which fittingly reflects Daedelus’s focus on the unique.
It seems fitting to talk a little at least about Archimedes given that this was its debut European show, coupled with the fact that all the pre-show hype was focused around it. So here we go…
With a lot of electronic musicians there’s always a worry about lack of stage presence, something exhibited later on in the night by Luke Vibert, but I can honestly say that with a 28 mirror moving backdrop reflecting light all over the place it’s pretty much impossible for your performance to lack something of a spectacle. Not that Daedelus needed anything to hide behind – he clearly didn’t envision Archimedes as something to take the focus off of his own performance, as is sadly all too often the case with electronic shows. Instead it served to highlight and extenuate the highs and lows of the beats. And man were there some lows; Koko was visibly rumbling with sub-bass!
Daedelus took to the stage in one of his trademark Victorian style suits with massive sideburns that wouldn’t look out of place in a Victorian costume drama. It’s this kind of penchant for the theatrical which sets him apart from other electronic producers. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was as much about the show as the music by any stretch, but the amount of thought that has clearly gone into the show set it a cut above the kind of performances other electronic musicians are turning in. Rather than trying to bring a live band to the stage to add a visual element and make proceedings feel more “Live”, Daedelus proved that it is possible to turn up in a monome and laptop set that fills the room, and keeps the audience engaged.
That’s probably enough about the visual show – although I do love writing about that stuff, let’s face it: music is why everyone chooses to spend their evenings gathered together in venues around the world.
Sonically the show was very much what you’d expect from Daedelus except with the bass turned up to 11. I’m not sure if they have a new speaker rig or what but I’ve never felt Koko shake quite so much! Initially it felt sort of odd because he’s not really the kind of producer that I would really associate with masses of bass (maybe that’s just me), but pretty soon I was feeling it, quite literally, along with everyone else in the room.
I’m not really one for posting set list’s from gigs, because they’re invariably wrong anyway, and at a show like this I feel even more justified in that. The set wasn’t about one stand out song, it was an hour and a quarter or relentless beatific music, each song chopped up, so as to be almost unrecognisable from its recorded version and mixed seamlessly into the next. I love that concept, but at the same time if I had to pick out a gripe this would be it: Don’t get me wrong it sounded great, but I kinda wish that at shows like this artists would take a pause, just for one or two big singles, and deliver them as songs, whole songs, the songs that everyone knows and loves. That might seem like a strange thing to say for an artist who is so unbelievably good at creating hypnotic soundscapes and flowing constantly morphing beat patterns but let’s face it sometimes everyone just wants to enjoy a big single without having to work to pick it out from the set, right?
The other thing that I found somewhat surprising was how sparsely vocal samples were used throughout the show. This might not sound like something to be surprised about, no doubt some of you are thinking “what the hell is he talking about?”, but just hold on one moment and have a think about this… I’m pretty confident that there are probably very few people who can deny that some of the stand out moments on Daedelus records, particularly his most recent Bespoke, are when he let’s simple vocal lines slide over arrangements of beats and string sounds. I think it would have been wonderful to see just one or maybe two un-manipulated vocals.
Those are my two tiny moans and let’s face it, they’re not real negatives, maybe more just a case of me hoping for something that was never really likely to happen in the first place. But hey, I come from quite a pop background, I love a song, there’s no harm in occasionally wishing that left-field experimentalists would sometimes take a break and let me hear one right?
That said one of my favourite things in a live show, and one which very few people truly pull off – Nosaj thing is another who is great at it – is when a producer intersperses his own songs and samples with samples taken from other tracks and manipulated live. Daedelus pulled this off magnificently possibly the most notable occasion being when he dropped the beat from Tyler the Creator’s “Yonkers”.
The man is undoubtedly a master of his art, with more than just half an eye for the theatrical, that the hour and a quarter he was on stage felt like a mere 20 minutes is testament to that. I could easily have watched him create hypnotic rhythms forever – well another half hour at least.
Edit: – Post originally written for Rare Fm. It can also be found online here – http://bit.ly/oPUiYv