Daedelus: Of Snowdonia
Plug Research

Of Snowdonia, Daedelus's second full-length for the LA-based Plug Research label, takes its conceptual inspiration from Snowdon , an actual Wales mountain (and incidentally the U.K.'s highest peak) that towers over the flat graying landscape of the surrounding countryside. As might be expected, however, the idea is frankly incidental to whatever pleasures the music affords, and in this case there are many. As on its predecessor Invention, Daedelus wields a mighty sampler, as he boldly plunders his huge library of sounds to create dense collages that encapsulate everything from jazz to hip-hop to film noir. Superficially, Daedelus's approach resembles Amon Tobin's in that both produce masterful compositions using materials sampled from vast aural archives, but Daedelus's tracks are less fixated on dance-based constructions. Instead, he constructs evocative collagistic compositions that constantly surprise as they pursue unexpected pathways. This doesn't mean that they're lacking in beats either, just that they emerge organically out of the pieces rather than have everything else constellate around them. What also distinguishes Daedelus's style is that he samples largely acoustic older material (piano, acoustic bass, clarinet, saxophone, orchestral strings) but then marries it to fresh funk and hip-hop beats and colours it further with subtle electronic and synth enhancements, resulting in a uniquely contemporary concoction; the decayed surface crackle of the older recordings also adds to the music's textured qualities. Most of the disc's thirteen tracks are brief but each is packed with exhausting detail. “Taking Wing” serves as a representative example of Daedelus's approach. After an introduction of gentle piano, electronic static, orchestral strings, voice and choir samples, a Pat Methenyesque melody line appears against a beat that alternates between a samba one moment and a barreling breakbeat the next—all in less than two minutes. And anyone who thinks a sampling M.O. precludes moments of poignant beauty need only listen to the heavenly melodies on “Pocket Watch Pulse.” Like Invention, Of Snowdonia impresses as a marvel of construction.

February 2004