Daedelus: Exquisite Corpse
Ninja Tune

While the generous coterie of guests joining Daedelus (Alfred Weisberg-Roberts) on Exquisite Corpse suggests a radical step for the LA composer, it's in fact more of an incremental and in hindsight logical move. Of Snowdonia (Plug Research) showcased his idiosyncratic flair for merging archaic vinyl kitsch and contemporary beats into jarring collages, while A Gent Agent (Laboratory Instinct) injected a stronger dose of hip-hop and jungle into the mix. And while the inclusion of MCs on Exquisite Corpse might seem new, Daedelus featured Busdriver on the Something Bells (Plug Research) 12-inch and guests like Pigeon John and Saul Williams appeared on the Adventure Time outings Dreams of Water Themes and 12-inch Glass Bottom Boats (both Plug Research). His fourth full-length might more accurately be broached as a confluence of directions Daedelus has been pursuing the past few years.

Yes, he still has a jones for decades-old samples, a fact nowhere more evident than in instrumental bricolage like “Dearly Departed” and the Cuban-flavoured “Fallen Love.” Boasting a lumbering lurch boosted to fortissimo levels by dramatic horn blasts, the lounge outing “The Crippled Hand” might be the most memorable of the three, though Scott Herren's Prefuse 73 production turn on “Welcome Home” sounds as good. Admittedly, Herren can do this kind of thing in his sleep by now but that doesn't diminish its potency; his sliced female coos and lush funk beats sparkle delectably (that same vocal, in a less chopped form, sweetens a second, head-nodding version of the song featuring poet Mike Ladd's laconic delivery).

The vocal tracks range more broadly. Interestingly, the pairing of an MC with Daedelus's eccentric backing might sound like an unpromising combination on paper but the results are often refreshing. MF Doom's flow dovetails nicely with Daedelus's salsa-tinged groove of syrupy strings and voice samples on “Impending Doom,” while an unwavering and sparser base in “Drops” proves ideal for Miami group CYNE. Hrishikesh Hirway (One AM Radio) performs vocal acrobatics in the first part of the folk-flavoured “Thanatopsis” before a smoother delivery meets a stumbling drum track. More calming by comparison is “Now and Sleep,” a time-weathered lullaby featuring Laura Darling's soothing vocal. Sometimes a combination proves too jarring. SCI's (Scienz of Life) hoarse voice doesn't quite jell with the easy-listening lounge flow of “Move On,” and the song ultimately sounds like an awkward conflation of disparate elements.

Whether by accident or design, Exquisite Corpse parallels in multiple respects Prefuse 73's similarly collaborative Surrounded By Silence. The latter's closer “And I'm Gone,” for example, goes slightly off the rails when Broadcast's Trish Keenan drowns in a sea of drum clatter and vocal choirs, and Exquisite Corpse's “Cadavre Exquis” ends in equally middling style when TTC's French rapping confronts a cheesy disco groove and convulsive hip-hop beats. And, oh yes, that oh-so-fitting title. The name actually comes from a game that was popular with Surrealism artists where one person writes a word or phrase on a piece of paper, folds it, passes it on to another to do the same, and so on, with the predictable result a collage of words that makes little conventional sense yet acts as a creative springboard; needless to say, one of the initial products was the statement “the exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine,” hence the album title. Just as the game suggests ties to dada and John Cage, so too does Daedelus's album feature similarly bold moments of experimental collage, to varyingly disjunctive degrees.

May 2005