- Just as the love of dandyism which has inspired Alfred Darlington's ninth Daedelus album makes him look like he'd be more at home in a velvet-draped Victorian drawing room than his native Los Angeles, so much the same can be said of his music. Although releases on Brainfeeder and Stones Throw nominally lump him in with other Californian beatsmiths like Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing, his musical mindset seems more in tune with fellow Ninja Tune signing Luke Vibert's Wagon Christ project—wilfully eccentric, occasionally daft and somehow ineffably English. It's an affection for the slapstick surrealism of both the Victorian music hall and Monty Python's Flying Circus that meant that even though 2008's Love to Make Music To was ostensibly influenced by memories of early British hardcore, it more resembled a burlesque night in 1880s London than a 1980s warehouse rave.
Bespoke once again feels like something Terry Gilliam—another American with a taste for English whimsy—would have created if he'd been making electronic music rather than hand-drawn animations for the Pythons. Indeed, the only real glimmers of the Golden State come in the Beach Boys harmonics of opening and closing tracks "Tailor-Made" and "Nightcap." Between those bookends Darlington leads us on a crazed waltz through the corridors of a mind which has as many twists and turns—and occasional dead ends—as any old English mansion. The analogue synths and dyspeptic basslines of "Sew, Darn, Mend" could be someone playing harpsichord at a dubstep dance; similarly, "Slowercase" sounds like Darlington has once more taken Love to Make Music To's acid house ingredients—Reese-style bass squelches, proto-jungle breakbeats—and shaken them up inside an antique souvenir snowstorm.
Daedelus isn't alone on this merry dance. Bespoke features guest vocalists including Inara George of LA synth-poppers A Bird And A Bee, who hovers amidst the swirling psychedelic phantasmagoria of "Penny Loafers" and Kelena Mizanekristos' ingénue vocals on "In Tatters" recall '90s British electro pop act Dubstar. "What Can You Do?" meanwhile features LA avant-rapper Busdriver struggling to keep up with a warped house beat and excitable piano, a problem that also afflicts Bilal on "Overwhelmed." That's the perfect title for a track where the soul singer is buried beneath clattering rhythms and abrasive guitar noise, and one which also illustrates Bespoke's occasional failing. For while Darlington's enthusiasm for sewing sounds together is undeniably infectious, he can occasionally tie himself in knots. Yet even when Bespoke is slightly ungainly it's still endearing. And, as any true dandy knows, sometimes looking silly is a far lesser crime than always being boring.
01. Tailor-Made feat. Milosh
02. Sew, Darn, Mend
03. Penny Loafers feat. Inara George
04. One and Lonely feat. Young Dad
05. Suit Yourself
06. What Can You Do? feat. Busdriver
07. French Cuffs feat. Baths
08. In Tatters feat. Kelela Mizanekristos
09. Slowercase D
10. Overwelmed feat. Bilal