“A fat motherfucker in a culture that’s malnourished” - on LP number seven, and their first in as many years, Dälek aren’t pulling any punches.
The seminal hip hop duo, formed between DJ Oktopus and MC Dälek in the late Nineties, had all but fizzled out after their last major transmission - 2009’s Gutter Tactics. But seven years on, and with a renewed vigour and ambition, MC Dälek (aka Will Brooks) resurrected the project with an all new line-up. Now a trio, their sound is as murky, brutal and strangely melodic as ever - nothing’s been lost in the transition, and if you were to play the last few albums together and bookend it with Asphalt for Eden, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the same people were all involved. A tricky thing to get right, but they’ve honoured their pioneering sound, and pushed it forward into something fresh.
A smouldering mix of droney ambience, noise rock and old school hip hop, Dälek’s sound has always been very unique - as at home with Faust as they are with Public Enemy, they’ve never been ones to shy away from the unconventional.
Album opener ‘Shattered’ sees the trio spark straight off the bat, and as far as opening salvos go, is pretty much perfect. A dark wall of squealing noise floats over a driving bassline before erupting into one of the (whisper it) catchiest things they’ve ever done - the chorus hook alone is worth your time, here. Things get murkier in ‘Guaranteed Struggle’ and ‘Masked Laughter (Nothing’s Left)’, which marry the usually disparate sounds of dirge-rock and sludgey hip hop with effortless ease - “I’m tryin’ to breathe!” intones Brooks in the latter, over a sea of distorted, slow motion beats and grinding bass and guitar, sounding almost lost in a world of his own making.
It’s a strange world they inhabit - it’s angry, but it’s punishingly slow and gloriously loud. It’s like trying to run a marathon through a sea of molasses - a slow motion, underwater trek through the muddy waters of modern life. A thick stew of My Bloody Valentine, Cult of Luna, Jesu, El-P and Cannibal Ox, all melding together like molten lava.
The instrumental ‘6dB’ showcases the new talent added to the group in the last year, with co-producer Mikey Manteca and DJ rEk combining to create a slab of slow, distorted, concrete-blues. You’d think, given Kanye’s new found affectation for all things experimental, he’d tap up some of this elegiac heaviness for his new stuff, and I guess time will tell - sadly, I’m not sure the Brooklyn trio are even on his radar, but it’d be an interesting experiment to witness.
Album closer ‘It Just Is’ sees a Brian Eno, or perhaps an Angelo Badalamenti riff, processed through the gnarliest of distortion pedals, lifted skywards and married to their unique brand of bass heavy, clattering hip hop beats. It’s a fitting end to an album that’s as punishing as it is rewarding - a trawl through the darkest depths of society in 2016, littered with spoken word quotes from a number of sources, all espousing their hardline political ideology. It would be disingenuous to label this a political album though, as this is literally just the world according to Dälek - a soundtrack to a world bored with utopia, and heading for disaster.
At just 39 minutes long, it’s spectacularly brief, especially for Dälek (2007’s Abandoned Language, for example, stretches to 63 minutes) but brevity here works in their favour, as there’s very little fat that needs trimming. Perhaps it’s a glimpse into a world we’ll be seeing more of in the not too distant future, and on this evidence, I’m very much hoping that’s so.
8Gavin Miller's Score