If I didn't have a stack of CDs waiting to be reviewed, there's a good chance that Invention
would stay on infinite loop in my car CD player for the rest of the summer -- or at least until someone else got in and asked me what the hell I was listening to. Like the best treasures, this album isn't something you rush out to share with everyone, but selectively unveil to those you trust, whom you know will appreciate its full abilities. But as I have to review it, I might as well blow the whistle on this miniature masterpiece and see if anyone's listening.
Invention is an amalgamation of found noises, spoken word and samples from music that was recorded while our grandparents were in short pants, all layered over progressive hip hop beats. Another experimental electronica album, you say? No, those are a dime a dozen these days, littering the three-dollar bin at used CD stores nationwide. Invention makes it all palatable, engaging, thought provoking and somehow natural, rescuing it from "just another"-obscurity and canonizing it as a template for future sounds. To say more would be impossible, because not only is every song tremendously better than the pedestrian grocery list of its parts, but I'm not even sure what all the parts are. The strange and unidentifiable noises that permeate this disc kept me hooked almost as tightly as the rhythms, which are first-rate to say the least -- not just because they're effective in getting your ass to move, but because they're simple and short. Musical experimentation doesn't have to involve an army of musical instruments, poised and at the ready. Daedelus gets great mileage out of a toy piano and some bass.
Economy of composition and musical ingenuity would be enough to mark Invention as something worth listening to, but it's the mental hooks that made me tune in time and time again -- elements that delve into the subconscious and linger there. The fairy tale narration on "Astroboy" that tells of a boy's dream involving "his mother's household robot, Automaton"; the clarinet sunrise of "Adventress", which could be the title music for Swing Kids as directed by Tim Burton; the strings-and-sax duet of "Aplomb" painting pictures of tomcats waltzing in tuxedos after dark, interrupted after barely a minute; this is Daedelus's secret weapon: he keeps the songs so short that they actually make you want more. Your mind races to fill in the gaps he leaves, much like inventing stories based on snapshots in a stranger's photo album.
Any artist who cites his influences as "'30s, '40s and '70s grooves" is a force to be reckoned with. Classically trained, stumbling through jazz and emerging into the rave culture, Daedelus has fashioned an album worthy of admiration and emulation. He even proves his street cred by layering dense rhythms for local MCs Busdriver and Sach to expound upon. I doubt the public at large is ready for a full-scale introduction to an artist who can mesh big bands and big beats, but those of us who are ready for such a union should be glad we have it all to ourselves, for now. As for the day when I see a high school jock sporting a Daedelus t-shirt at the mall? Well, I won't be able to say that this is a guy who doesn't deserve it.