Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dummy Blog Album of the Week: 'Abandoned Language' by Dälek

Dälek have done a great job on Abandoned Language despite having two famished hounds gnawing at their ankles. The first hound is indie hip hop. The reason I'd never checked this band out before is because I assumed they were part of that same Anticon/Def Jux axis of whining 'poets' who make clunky, pretentious art-rap for people who think they're too cultivated to listen to Ghostface Killah shout about cocaine. The second hound is trip hop. Apart from maybe slap-bass jazz funk, there can hardly be any genre less fashionable today than mid-nineties Mo'Wax/Ninja Tune-style 'blunted' instrumental hip hop, and that method of swathing tough old-skool breaks in a tensely cinematic gauze is not so far from what Dälek are doing. But Dälek shake off both those dogs because they're not afraid of real hip hop.

Dalek are probably the only rap duo ever to name My Bloody Valentine as an influence – or to sample them, which they did on previous LP Absence (update: apparently, no, they didn't) - and while Abandoned Language isn't as heavy on the screeching feedback as their older material, the wall of sound is still here. Songs like Lynch drown in a swamp of dissonant strings, while many of the other drones sound neither orchestral nor synthesised but simply elemental, like the wind. Most powerful is the epic ten-minute title track, which ends with three minutes of deafening elegiac clamor (as every song ever recorded would, if I had my way; especially Jolene). Shoegaze hip hop, like nu rave, could be one of those ludicrous joke genres you invent for fun but, unlike nu rave, it actually has thrilling results: Dalek sound like nothing else in the world.

Dalek have mentioned in interviews that, just like My Bloody Valentine (and, for that matter, Prefuse 73), they often use the voice of their MC – founding member dälek-with-a-small-'d' - as merely an instrument, and sometimes his verses are so muffled or distorted as to be inaudible. Don't assume, however, that it's all noise and no signal: dälek has a forceful, wary flow and lyrics that are political but never glib. On Corrupt (Knuckle Up) he even manages a rousing, shout-along chorus which is something you never, ever find in underground hip hop. And articulate scratching from turntablist Rob Swift, formerly of X-Ecutioners, is the perfect finishing touch to an album which may revive your interest in the discredited notion of a hip hop avant garde.


Out 27/2 on Ipecac

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