The music that Dälek makes is like nothing
that i have ever heard before, and there are three things that
- I am too narrow in my listening habits and need to get out
- This music is crap, and the reason i haven't heard it is
that it is best avoided.
- It is a creation of genius, and is one of those moments
when someone does something truly and utterly creative.
Number 1 is probably true, but then again, it's safe and cozy
here in Indie Rock Land. But as to 2 or 3 being the case: something
in my gut tells me to go with 3. The music is really catchy,
and the layers and layers (and layers) of sound combine to create
something of majesty, something darkly brilliant.
All i have to say is: Wow.
For those of you who are unaware, Dälek is a hip-hop act. Not
like Eminem of one of those rappers who talk over a simplistic
beat (you know, the stuff you see when you flip past BET during
the day, or MTV in the afternoon). No, this is convoluted word-smithing
over thick, rich music.
It's really hard to describe the music. Yes, it's obviously
a collection of samples -- you can hear hisses and pops from
old records from time to time. But there is minimal scratching.
Instead the samples speak for themselves. And there are dozens
of them in any one song, along with layers of guitar drone and
old drum riffs and atonal singing (perhaps played at the wrong
RPM) and, well, more sounds that i can really describe. It is
as if the DJs in the band (Still and Oktopus) have taken all
the music they have ever heard and somehow distilled it into
this one heady mix.
Over this mélange of sound, rapper Dälek spews strange
poems, dark poems, angry poems. He is not rapping about girls
and cars. Instead he is deeply furious at the world, the hand
it has dealt him, and man's inhumanity towards his fellow man.
Dälek's raps are true Class of '77 punk rock.
So, combine punk rapping with heady sample distillation and
you get something that is not quite like anything you have heard
before. Oh sure, there is a faint connection to the Anticon
crew (Themselves, cLOUDEAD,
etc.) in the music, but Still and Oktopus make music that is
darker and more complex than the Anticoners. And of course,
Dälek's angry punk raps are nothing like the artsy stoner
ramblings of Anticon. So i think that Dälek is pretty unique.
(Or is it? Granted, i don't know much about the underground
of hip-hop, so maybe there are dozens of acts like Dälek out
there, and i am just unexposed to them. If you know of such
acts, please email me the details. I want to hear more.)
That said, i feel like is should describe the songs, but i
am overwhelmed by them every time i listen. Nonetheless, like
i good Minion i shall persevere and do the best i can.
The first tune, Spiritual Healing is a furious tune.
But then i guess that catharsis is healing, and there was that
"primal scream therapy" stuff back in the 1980's… So perhaps
by spewing his angst like this, Dälek is, in fact, engaging
in a real spiritual healing. I hope the song made Dälek feel
better, but i am betting not, although the results are worth
The next two songs, Speak Volumes and ...From Mole
Hills are meta-rap tunes. That is, they are raps about the
status of rap culture. Apparently, Dälek thinks that rap is
going to hell in a handbasket of over-commercialization. (I
suppose this is similar to the "Punk's not dead, it just smells
funny." commentary of the early 1980's.)
In Speak Volumes Dälek is obviously distraught. "33
degree new continents i'm mapping, yo i'm, asking -- what happened"
repeated at an ever increasing, ever more neurotic pace over
an intricate drum beat, a subtle piano melody, and slide guitar.
This song builds slowly as his rapping gets more and more insistent.
...From Mole Hills features the chorus, "I remember hip
hop. That's my Mt. Zion." This is rapped in a more resigned,
sad manner, as compared to the rage of the previous song. The
rap is done over clattering odd percussion (gamelan samples
perhaps) and whining guitar drone. At the end, it descends into
some funky scratching layered with fuzzed out guitar samples
for an excellent conclusion.
There are several really nice tunes in the middle of the disc,
most noticeably Black Smoke Rises, but it is the album's
closer that bowls me over. It's called Classical Homicide
and is an angry song. Angry like Ministry or early Nine Inch
Nails or Black Flag or Minor Threat. Dälek is positively
screaming here in a way that makes me worry he will hurt his
voice if he keeps it up. All of this is over a wall of guitar
distortion and thudding beats. It's uneasy, yet seems excessively
honest. You never get the impression that this is an angry pose
(like one got with late era Ministry). Rather, these people
are pissed off and you need to stay out of their way.
Anyway, this is a really cool album. It's a little slow in
places (the middle tracks drag just a hair), and it's more dark
than most people would like to listen to, but it is well done
and with very interesting sounds. Still and Oktopus have done
a fine job, and Dälek's vocals provide a nice counterpoint to
their sonic collages.
I am very impressed.