Inventor, Re-invent Thyself
Music can be a perfect vehicle for storytelling. For much of its history, it told tales using the ink of voice and the paper of hand-played instruments. Only recently has artificially generated music been up to the same task—plot and dialogue sculpted by Steinski et al., tone and tenor found in Portishead’s crime dramas and more. Under his stage name Daedelus on the new release Righteous Fists of Harmony, West Coast producer Alfred Darlington is part of a new crop of artists—existential, experimental, interpretive and thematic—taking up the cause of electronic bards past.
Clocking in at a mere 26 minutes, Righteous Fists of Harmony refers to Chinese who fought for three years against British imperialism as the 19th century became the 20th, a period the rest of the world would come to know as the Boxer Rebellion. The eight songs here from Daedelus and select guest vocalists and players soundtrack that struggle, ostensibly implying an “old-ways-vs.-new” theme even we modern folk can find relevant.
Sadly, Daedelus delivers heavyhanded atmospheres that do indeed sound like they were meant for heartbreaking films of staggering genius. With the exception of the bossa nova misfire “Order of the Golden Dawn,” every title matches up to music that might back a very specific visual. “An Armada Approaches” has martial and moody elements; the guitars and drums of “Tidal Waves Uprising” eventually crash down and fade away; “Stampede Me” is obvious love-scene music. It crosses a fine line between skillful execution and artistic brute force.
Darlington’s donned Victorian garb onstage and dropped vintage instruments and recordings into his work, but this attempt at a period piece leaves behind the past playful samples of “It’s Madness” and hip-hop stabs like “Drops.” He’s not the only California beatmaker in the spotlight nowadays, but the abstractions on Righteous Fists of Harmony aren’t nearly as enthralling as Flying Lotus (who actually runs the Brainfeeder record label releasing this), nor is the theme as engaging as, say, Däm-Funk’s recent EP series. It’s a stodgy and joyless release not representative of Daedelus’ back catalog.