Dälek - _Absence_
(Ipecac, 2005)
by: James Slone (8 out of 10)
Dälek, pronounced Dialect, is a hip hop outfit that -- hold on! Don't flee the review yet. I know this is an extreme metal site, but hear me out. Now that I have your attention, let's start over.

Dälek, pronounced Dialect, is a hip hop outfit that operates on the fringes of feedback and white noise. _Absence_ is their second proper album, but the band already packs a formidable wallop, bridging the difficult gap between rap music and experimental industrial soundscapes. Having worked previously with Faust, a band whose own brand of experimentalism has become very loud in the past ten years, Dälek have become a powerful engine of the urban apocalypse, to borrow their own phraseology.

Ignoring the rap and turntables for a moment, I feel obligated to describe the sound of the music, which tends to bounce between the spacious and ferocious and is mainly the product of producer and composer, Oktopus. Heavy beats and jazz bass lines form the driving rhythmic core, pounding away with syncopated intensity and act primarily as an anchor for blasting white noise, hazy guitar feedback, quasi-metallic shoegaze riffs, and industrial based precision straight out of Godflesh. The thing often sounds like Charles Mingus, Red Harvest, My Bloody Valentine, and Coil in the studio trying to come up with something vaguely resembling hip hop. Add a little militant Public Enemy gusto and spot on scratching, and you have a fairly wicked sound.

Dälek, the man himself, has a low hypnotic voice, as subtle in parts as it is bombastic in others. In those more thoughtful, intellectually charged moments his voice has a classic bohemian flare (a la A Tribe Called Quest), but when he's angry he practically snarls into the mic, adding a lightening charge to the already pummeling music. Some metalheads might find his pan-Africanism and generally radical politics a bit too much to bear, but the lyrical themes only add to the naked aggression and cutting precision of the band's sound.

Not all is angry- the album is frequently melodic in that noisy sort of way that shoegaze bands are, and there are melodic parts that sound an awful lot like melancholic, trancy black metal riffs. And Dälek is an incredibly polished rapper, with a musical sense of rhyme and rhythm. The album does suffer from sameness and repetition, often intense to the point of nausea, but this is an extreme metal magazine, and we all know that one person's headache is another person's sublime experience.

I suspect that _Absence_, a dark and otherworldly album, contains a lot more appeal than many metal fans are ready to admit. Take a look. Chances are good you won't regret it.

Contact: http://www.ipecac.com

(article published 17/2/2005)


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