Look up bespoke artist in the dictionary and you’d likely discover a photograph of Alfred Darlington staring back at you. Standing out for his Victorian Dandy fashion sensibilities, his individuality is most certainly one of his strongest characteristic traits. Born in Santa Monica, Los Angeles in 1977 to an artist mother and psychologist father. Alfred was always musical from a young age being Classically and Jazz-trained in a number of instruments. Experimental by nature, he chose his namesake on the back of a childhood obsession with tinkering and inventing.
His interests are and always have been broad and varied – his varied obsessions ranged from Greek legend to the mountains of Wales as a child. His ‘Righteous Fists of Harmony’ EP (2009) was inspired by China’s Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the last century and Darlington has now returned to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder with ‘The Light Brigade’ – made in tribute to the (original) Crimean war of 1853-56. This music was written and recorded before the recent violence broke out in that region, a turn of events which has lent a peculiarly apt air of melancholy to the album. Reflective, rich in timbre and saturated in folklore this is self-proclaimed to be Darlington’s most acoustic record as Daedelus to date. Scroll on for a song by song account of the meanings behind each track from the artist himself, and allow yourself t0 succumb to it’s mystery…
1. The Light Brigade
This track is named after a poem by Alfred Tennyson which itself references a failed cavalry charge during the Crimean War of 1853-56. That’s what the album title is about, but it’s just the surface noise. Truly the songs are detailing an intimate sound portrait about fingers on strings and voices uplifting. I can say with confidence this is my most acoustic record to date.
2. Until Artillery
Have you ever ridden a carousel? I don’t mean Until Artillery to be simply a carnival creation, but I like the spinning freeing feeling to begin this record, clears the palette I hope, sets a tone.
3. Baba Yaga
Baba Yaga is a supernatural being who lives in a hut on chicken legs, seriously. Kind of like how Santa Claus drives a sled pulled by reindeer. The stories we tell children have all kinds of impossible details that are fact until you stop believing. This song is supposed to invoke the Eastern Mysteries and folklore. Magic afoot.
Here begins the Young Dad vocals that provide so much of the swoon factor of the album. Is it that he is calling for the military charge, or is it a lovers questioning refrain, do they need to be seperate?
5. The Victory of the Echo over the Voice
Laura has been my musical muse for all of my recordings. Here she is present in muffled ever shifting form, playing the echo in this piece. Galloping horses at a distance slowly coming into focus.
City of the Black Sea. The song breaths, it parades a little, cantors.
7. Tsars and Hussars
Second of the tryptic of song featuring Young Dad. A long intro chugs like an old steam engine, guitar plucks like bleat animals, and his voice comes soaring over it all. Love songs to countries, entire populations.
8. Battery Smoke
I wanted this to be a quiet, foreboding and forlorn. Like leaving an embrace after being reunited from a long absence, bittersweets. None of the melodies are so electronically addled that they couldn’t be sung, this song especially.
Completing the cycle, Young Dad’s plaintive vocal “Let Me Take, You Belong with Me”, finishes the double meaning of courtship and country conquering.
Finally a song with percussion you might say. To which I’d agree; succumbing to the temptation (and probably needing a little beating somewhere on the album, drums are fun).
11. Shot and Shell
Penultimate and resolving all the emotions I tried to pour into the guitar strings in the previous songs. Like looking across a misty sea, but probably it’s just the effected rhodes with its dense chording provided by Adam Benjamin. If there was only one song by which you might ride side-saddle in slow motion across the moor?
12. Country of Conquest
An eerie ending, intimate and epic alike. Violins and ghost choir and dusted synths and more slow motion? Albums should have endings that beg questions, most prominently is my intention of listen again?
The Light Brigade will be released next Monday, pre-order it here.
Photography by Valeria Cherchi