Twisting Grooves: Daedelus’ Loop Improvs Make for Surprising Beats

Alfred Weisberg-Roberts—otherwise known as Daedelus—is a nattily attired young man whom one might like to refer to as a “DJ,” except that he’s really more of a 21st Century classical composer working in the experimental dance/electronic realm. However, Weisberg-Roberts doesn’t eschew the former label, even if the title isn’t likely to garner him the respect he deserves in the popular music press. In fact, his newest effort, Love To Make Music To [Ninjatune], is what he calls “a super-upbeat virtual homage to rave culture” that, in many respects, is a total departure from his more outwardly intellectual past work.

While the admittedly anti-minimalist Daedelus does strip things down on this album, there’s still a truckload of sonic information vying for attention in these tracks. But for all of the thick compositions present within Love To Make Music To, it’s the fat, buzzing analog synths the maestro says give the tracks an in-your-face sort of sociability, and serve as the direct atavistic link to the beloved 1992 rave scene he celebrates therein.

Weisberg-Roberts says that he decided to lean heavily on an ancient Roland SH-09 for his newest album. “In rave culture, the SH-101 is the most popular analog synth, and one of the first to have an arpeggiator—albeit in a real cheap form,” he says. “It wasn’t your kind of really fancy Jupiter synths—it was more a ground level kind of thing. A lot of the UK-artists had a love affair with it. The SH-09 is similar. It doesn’t have an arpeggiator, but it does have a unique bass sound. People talk about the Moog series having an amazing bass sound, but this is really different.”

For additional variations on synth textures, he made extensive use of the MicroKorg and the Dave Smith Evolver, which marries analog circuitry with digital control. For sampling, Weisberg-Roberts goes directly into Pro Tools because of the “interesting harmonic distortion” he claims the rig generates.

“It’s not the most savvy way of going about treating sampled material, because the converters on a typical Pro Tools rig aren’t the most pristine,” he says. “But I feel that it’s the ghosts in the machine that are giving you the personality. The dirt that you can get under your nails will make you happy.”

Making use of the recent spate of software that simulates 8-bit and 12-bit sound was inevitable, he says, adding: “It’s funny how we talk about old equipment. It’s true that old gear can produce a kind of distortion that’s very melodic, and that has a warmth which is really endearing. It’s funny how that’s the bane of digital existence, these little imperfections. But it’s not everything, and it’s not the perfect choice for all my material.”

Matching gear to the song’s needs is also why Weisberg-Roberts uses everything from cheapo Radio Shack mics to the built-in microphone in his MacBook to capture sounds—the latter of which was used to record the entirety of N’fa’s cameo on “Twist the Kids.”

“The reality is that take was the best take,” he says matter-of-factly. “And, anyway, crystal clear vocal production doesn’t necessarily fit with my concept of using vocals as more textural elements of the songs. Re-recording N’fa with a better signal chain wouldn’t have been the right thing for the song.”

For Love To Make Music To, Weisberg- Roberts integrated a Monome MIDI controller (— one of the staples of his gigging gear—into the production process, using it in conjunction with Cycling ’74s Max/MSP. “I’m able to sample bits and pie1ces of a song I’ve created—or even live material—as I sample directly into the machine, and it rips ’em apart on the fly,” he says. “Basically, this allows for a lot of improvisational-type controls in an immediate fashion. The results can be unpredictable, because samples have a bit of their own personality—especially when you’re dealing with complicated drums. You can find places that are unexpected, and use the controller to repeat those moments. For example, I’ll haphazardly play across the machine with some basic expectations. You’ve got to hit a point in a typical drum loop that’s usually kind of a null point—where there’s usually nothing going on—but the way that affects the beat is sometimes really interesting. You can drop in on the second beat in a three-bar loop, and, suddenly, the beat turns around in a funny way. It’s the wrong beat in the wrong place, but you can take a break beat, and make it something that sounds 4/4. I love that about this machine—you can really get outside of your expectations. In fact, it can foil your expectations.”