Everyone likes music, but is anyone willing to pay for it anymore? A few Los Angeles-based producers seem to think not, which is why they’ve started giving their releases away for nothing—sort of. The concept behind the beatmakers’ new record label, Friends of Friends, runs like this: two musicians record three songs apiece for a digital EP, which consumers can download for free when they buy a limited-edition T-shirt designed by one of the company’s graphic artists. There’s probably no money in this venture for anyone, but according to Daedelus—whose tracks lead off the recent Friends of Friends Volume 1—that’s not really the point.
“The sale of the shirts might eventually make a small profit,” says the dance-music producer, reached at a tour stop in Baltimore, “but if nothing else, giving away music digitally assuages the terrible guilt about some of these physical products. I mean, vinyl is a petroleum product, and CDs have poisonous chemicals in them. Eventually, all these things are going to end up in landfills.”
In that respect, Daedelus is both a saint and a grievous offender, having rescued literally thousands of secondhand records through the years and sampling them to make a staggering number of his own releases—over two dozen since his 2001 debut. Given his prolific recording rate, one might assume the Santa Monica native never encounters writer’s block, but he swears that’s not the case.
“I take a workman’s attitude to making music,” says Daedelus, whose real name is Alfred Darlington. “Even if I believe that there are these eureka-moments where lightning strikes and great ideas emerge, the reality is that everything takes time. I don’t think of myself as a natural talent. Everything I do requires a lot of effort.”
The producer’s work ethic may have allowed him to carve out a living from making music, but it rarely translates into the kind of over-determined and lifeless tracks that run rampant in the computer-music scene. His contributions to the first Friends of Friends EP handily summarize his instinctive aesthetic, ranging from “C’est Super”, his delirious take on the French Touch house sound, to the sweetly romantic “LA Nocturn”, a study in pastoral ambience.
With his side project, the Long Lost, Daedelus departs from the laptop world altogether, writing and recording psych-tinged folk songs with his wife, Laura. On its recent self-titled debut album, the duo applies a palette of Brazilian colours to their tunes, drawing from bossa nova to create a suite of love songs that’s both consistently lush and consistently hushed.
“I was really afraid of embracing quiet sounds and putting out a really close-listening record,” admits the producer. “The Internet rewards immediacy, so putting out a calm, less-than-immediate record is a risk. But being in Europe recently and seeing the way that people there have engaged with the record, it’s been really encouraging and rewarding to get really great feedback.”
Daedelus plays the Modern on Friday (June 19).