To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on Kneebody + Daedelus = Kneedalus last Friday night at The Cedar. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
It was a double dose of experimental, electronic and progressive jazz music at the Cedar Cultural Center this past weekend as the Twin Cities were treated to a reunion of sorts between producer Daedelus and the bicoastally-founded 5 piece, Kneebody. Having not performed together since unleashing and touring behind their 2015 collaboration entitled Kneedelus, saxophonist Ben Wendel acknowledged the special moment with a big smile and expression of appreciation for the rare opportunity the Walker Art Center and The Cedar presented to a full house Friday night.
Heavily sideburned and dressed in a formal shirt and tailcoat, Alfred Darlington AKA Daedelus found his way to his perch of laptop, mixers, and gizmos to set the tone for the evening’s series of performances.
Darlington wasted no time indoctrinating the audience with straight hip hop beats and a steady wash of tones and burbling bleeps. Manipulating the sound patterns and dancing atop his arsenal of electronic devices, he wildly gesticulated, physically animating the thick and dense layers of sound. Daedelus continued to test the highs and lows of the house sound system, ultimately pulling away from the obscurity of descending melodies and introduced a familiar voice: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Chopping up the Purple One’s voice made for a respectful tribute to the hometown hero before Darlington craftily returned to the head-bobbing norms of thumping bass, with counterpoints of malfunctioning video game noises and a barrage of space lasers.
Virtually strangling his brilliant box of glowing orange buttons, Daedelus’ sound collage progressed into more spare, bird-like sounds and eventually made way for the five gentlemen that make up Kneebody to join him in the cacophony on their own respective instruments. To wild applause, the assembled musicians that make up “Kneedulus” made a grand transition, demonstrating the shape of music to come for the evening with just a taste of their famous joint effort.
Giving props to Daedelus, Kneebody bassist Kaveh Rastegar remarked, “Imagine tonight is going to be like a great sandwich. You just heard some peanut butter, that would make us jelly. Soon you are going to hear the whole damn sandwich!”
Currently on tour in support of Anti-Hero, released this month, Kneebody brought more timbre and a different sound to the proceedings. Swelling horns, jagged rhythms and angular bass and drums created a bed of grooves during the new record’s lead off track, “For the Fallen”.
The post rock excursions and thick tones from keyboardist Adam Benjamin stretched out amid the rhythmic foundations aptly provided by drummer Nate Wood and Rastegar, allowing for ample solo opportunities from saxophonist Ben Wendel and trumpeter Shane Endsley, who built on his own sound with several boxes and pedals of his own.
Oceanic ebbs and flows in Kneebody’s music from the electronically affected instruments, pulsing math-rock bass and drums laid way for much improvisation. Often devolving into chaotic interplay between each musician, massive downbeats and the more crunching rock of “Yes You” from Anti-Hero, Kneebody performed with a fresh tightness. The beautiful arrangements displayed the group’s precision as they managed to continually rejoin each excursion by stopping on a dime, in unison. Kneebody then wrapped up their own set with the somber tribute to an old friend (“For Mikie Lee”), once again capitalizing on their knack for composition and sweet melodies.
After a short break at The Cedar, the audience reconvened for an extensive grand finale from the joint effort, Kneedulus. Daedulus returned to stage to bring the sounds back to outer space, with giant echoes and atmosphere for the dub-like “Loops”.
Swirling repetition, affected trumpet and urgent drum breaks recalled On the Corner-era Miles Davis that continued to venture into more of an Acid-Jazz impulse. The dual rhythms between Daedelus’ clapping beats and Wood riding the beat stretched beyond typical structure and gave room for an effective drum solo that roused the audience with applause. Benjamin laid a heavy groundwork with his Fender Rhodes during “The Whole” allowing for incredible face-melting from his band mates.
“We’ll see if you can recognize this one,” suggested Wendel.
Interestingly the ensemble brought the vibe down as Daedelus triggered the familiar acoustic guitar arpeggiations that took some time to sink in. Once Kneebody introduced the delicate melody and theme to Elliott Smith’s “Angeles”, the producer brought Smith’s sampled vocal from the heavens and into the chorus, making for a sentimental moment in an otherwise musically frantic night.
The evening was a true test of musicianship; in essence we found an overall tribute to music, the spirit of composition, and improvisation as a whole. It was a truly gratifying experience to witness such vitality and camaraderie on stage.
Kneebody and Daedelus performed at The Cedar, in a concert copresented by the Walker Art Center, on Friday, March 24, 2017.