C418: “Dief” Album Review

Written By: Anthony Hamilton

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It took just two weeks for producer C418 to create Dief. When the album’s patron and titular character, Teddy Dief employed him to create the backing track for a GDC Talk, C418 (real name, Daniel Rosenfeld) didn’t pussyfoot around.

As a pragmatist, he set every track on the album at a cool 90 beats per minute, which would grant him the freedom to seamlessly transition through the tracks in a live setting. The album would function as incidental music, rather than as an attraction in and of itself and with this in mind, C418 was forced to walk a fine line- that Twilight-Zone between craftsmanship and artistry; between sensibility and sensitivity.

Producers with less experience or less mettle would easily fall into the trap of timidly approaching this gray world but C418 had no qualms about diving right in. He approaches the album professionally with an opening track titled “Texture Prayers,” an ambient, string laden track which would mislead you into thinking the album is best heard at a low volume.

The album blossoms tremendously at the opening of the second track. “Work Life Imbalance” teases with a brief percussive intro before hammering into the album’s first heavy hitting drum rhythm and C418 suddenly stands more so on the shoulders of The RZA than on those of Brian Eno. The synth melody that grinds its way over the track, jeweled with the occasional quick descending triplets, exemplifies the producer’s ability to incorporate artistry into functionality. C418 could have foregone the lead synth and still would have created a perfectly suitable backing track, but he didn’t; as an artist, he knew something belonged there and he forged it perfectly.

Throughout the album, C418 emblazons the tracks with these brief moments that may have been ignored by other producers: “Imaginary Interlude” contains in itself a lovely interlude, building the song back up after stripping it down to ambient bells; “Blank Cubicle,” hosts not only a deceptively jazzy bass-line, but also the album’s only vocals, for better or for worse.

These small quirks on the album are indicative of something greater than just their sonic qualities though; they represent a willingness on the part of the producer to take creative risks. In this way, regardless of the aesthetic outcome, Rosenfeld has succeeded as an artist by finding an expressive outlet in spite of his restrictions.

With that being said, it should be noted that the album never approaches a point of stubbornness or defiance. C418 simply knows how to craft a song, “Smooth Fall” being the best evidence of this. After two-minutes of familiar, pushed-back chords and light percussion, the heavier hip-hop drums fall into place alongside strong, definitive piano.

When he closes the album with “Match Cut,” the sister track to “Work Life Imbalance,” C418 shifts towards classicism, both in spirit and in sound. The same blipping melody takes on a more sentimental tone in the context of a lower energy track and eventually the rhythmic textures slowly fall away, allowing piano chords and strings to mimic the album’s ambient opening track.

While Rosenfeld may have approached the album casually, his inherent sensibilities remained in tact, enabling him to generate, at the very least, something highly listenable throughout. His brief moments of inspiration resonate clearly enough to keep the album interesting without ever becoming impractical. Being a dichotomous album in its goals, a schism in its listening should be expected. For more active listeners, following along with Rosenfeld’s own accompanying literature [ https://c418.org/albums/dief/ ] allows an insight into the producer’s world, while for a less patient crowd, skipping to tracks such as “Work Life Imbalance” and “Blank Cubicle” may be the best way to enjoy what Rosenfeld has achieved.