There is music that’s made from the outside looking in. The textures are vibrant and the beats bang, but there’s a hollow radiance at the core. It’s pantomime. Then there’s Los Angeles’s Alfred Darlington, a.k.a. Daedelus, who has released a dozen albums in a dozen years straddling countless sub-genres. They’re united by his insistence on letting his emotions guide the blueprint.
His listeners perceive a balance between the direct and the obtuse that can’t be articulated in words. This is part of the subtext for Drown Out, Daedelus’s most elegiac album. His debut for Anticon is a heart-on-sleeve meditation devoted to loss, coded language and the maddening failures of communication. And yet one can still bob one’s head to it.
“Music can be this ultimate form of poetry-a place to express huge ideas and a whole range of emotion in a few minutes,” Daedelus, says. “But it can fall short because no one can quite share in the experience as much as you feel yourself. Someone can empathize, but your melancholy ultimately rests in you. Title the songs, name the album, but the music is what speaks in the end.” Perfectly imperfect.
There’s a sadness that courses through Drown Out. During its gestation, Daedelus grappled with the deaths of his grandmother and close friend and collaborator Austin Peralta, and the debilitating illness of another family member forced him to take a sabbatical from touring. The grief is exorcised not through overwrought builds and releases, but through quiet ripples and agnostic hymnals-a winding and unraveling of nerves.
It can be alternately intense or mellow, melancholy or ebullient, danceable or introspective. Genres ransacked and sublimated include ’90s West Coast gangsta rap, rave, classical, jazz, footwork, juke and the heavy beats that crop up out of the Low End Theory. There are neither speed limits nor straight paths, but there’s always a voice and a roadmap.