Daedelus @ KOKO
aaamusic | On 20, Sep 2011
London, 17th September
The lights come up and Daedelus exits stage. My girlfriend turns to me and says: “That was the best thing I have ever seen.” This is the first time that the LA-based, electronic musician has brought his new, live AV show – entitled ‘Archimedes’ – over to Europe, and although Daedelus only manages to fill up London’s KOKO to about 70%, those in attendance have just witnessed dance music perfection.
First up tonight is Hidden Orchestra, who arrive on stage a little late and to fairly sparse crowd. The band consists of a bassist/DJ and violinist/DJ who are bookended by two drummers with full kits. Unlike many bands with two live drummers (e.g. Radiohead at Glastonbury), Hidden Orchestra fully justisfy their inclusion, with the two drummers having fill and solo battles throughout the groove-laden, bass-heavy trip and hip hop set. While the stage is readied for the big headline show, Brainfeeder’s Kutmah – from LA – takes to the wing decks for 45 minutes of exceptionally mixed glitch-hop and experimental dubstep, sounding somewhere in between label mate The Gaslamp Killer and label head Flying Lotus.
The screen hiding the stage is lifted to reveal a fully lit and smiling Alfred Darlington – aka Daedelus – donning his standard dandy attire and covered in ridiculous facial hair (average ‘tache, phenomenal chops…). Behind him is ‘Archimedes’ – essentially a wall of mirrors. The lights dim and Daedelus drops to his decks to deliver 85 minutes of expertly balanced, dubstep-heavy electronica. All the while backed by columns of moving, mechanised mirrors – coordinated both individually and as a collective unit – that reflect light and video content around the venue.
Daedelus’ set tonight is energetic and heavy, unlike the relatively subdued level that he pitched his latest album – ‘Bespoke’ – at. The basslines are deep and weighty enough to make everyone grimace approvingly, but, and unlike most dubstep orientated sets, the bass is not overly aggressive and doesn’t drown out the rest of the electronica. Just like his LA contemporaries FlyLo, Gaslamp and Nosaj Thing, he laces his dubstep with hip hop grooves, experimental glitches, and jazz-like time signatures. But whereas those artists can sometimes get a little self indulgent with their sets, Daedelus is both pleasingly progressive and appropriately accessible. He throws in the odd mainstream sample – such as Cut Copy and James Blake – but never leads off or relies on that sample, and it often lies distorted or muffled in the background, nearly unrecognizable.
His impeccable precision is what makes the show sound so wicked, but it his unrelenting charisma, together with the AV show, that make the show so wicked to watch. The mirrors are actually rather subtle, creating flashes and rays of light to complement the music and performer, rather than relentlessly dazzle the crowd into appreciation. It is Daedelus, himself, that is such a wonder to watch –his arms and hands flailing from his equipment to the sky to his heart, which he occasionally clutches or pats in between mixing, with such wild enthusiasm that it’s impossible to resist grinning along with him (and what a grin he has!). A lot of DJs just rock up, looking plain and uninterested, press play, let the track run, do a little mix, and repeat. Witnessing Daedelus make you realise that DJs can be actual artists. Furthermore, they can be performers. Daedelus set is a performance – dressed in a ridiculous outfit, constantly playing around with some aspect of the sound (no matter how miniscule), sweating so much that he regularly towels himself down, he is never anything but animated. As he ends the set, entranced in some kind of robotic dance as he fires out a barrage of industrial noises, I can confidently say that this was the most enjoyable dubstep show I’ve ever seen, and perhaps the most enjoyable electronic music show I’ve ever seen.
Sadly, it’s all down hill from here. Raffertie judges the crowd all wrong, playing a run-of-the-mill dubstep meets techno set – clearing half the floor. Then Luke Vibert emerges on stage to play a bland hip hop heavy set that becomes increasingly generic and cheesy as the night goes on. Vibert just doesn’t look like he cares – never once looking up from his laptop to gauge the mood of the audience, and barely expressing more than a scrunch of his noise, he might as well have been playing in his bedroom. A real disappointment, especially given his reputation. Then I suddenly realise: maybe no future DJ set I see will ever be as good as Daedelus was tonight? My girlfriend was nearly right – this was the best thing we will ever see….Or maybe I’m just getting carried away, because Luke Vibert really was that bad.
Author: Clive Rozario