The world can seem to be a very dark place at times. There are two main ways to deal with this: either laugh and party to distract yourself, or scream in anger. At least, this seems to be the two main ways that music deals with the sheer disappointment of living in a world full of other human beings -- either you are a party band or you are an angry band.
This is a gross oversimplification, of course, but i think the idea has some merit. Pop tends to be about partying, while punk and metal are angry.
Hip-hop tends to be somewhere in the middle. The best hip-hop bands balance the anger with the need to party, combining dance anthems with rants about the unfairness of American society.
And then there is Dälek. Dälek is the name of a rapper and the name of the band that he fronts. Dälek the rapper spits out his verse forcefully, angrily. He has looked at the world and found it dissatisfying, so he raps about it.
Dälek the band consists of the excellently named Mike Swarmbots as well as DJ Rek. The two of them twist odd samples and droning noises into dark, meandering soundscapes that Dälek the rapper works over. The music of this band is so different from what you normally hear in hip-hop. It is not as beat-driven as the rest of hip-hop is, which is not to say that it is beatless, but rather the beats that are here are buried under noises and drones.
What Rek and Swarmbots are doing, the music they are creating, owes a debt to Skinny Puppy, Front 242, My Bloody Valentine, Füxa, Flying Saucer Attack, and Windy and Carl. This is drone music done with industrial intensity and masses of feedback. The music is intense, dark, swirling, monstrous, and incredibly fascinating. Nothing else that i hear, anywhere, sounds like what Rek and Swarmbots are doing. This is unique, this pushes the boundaries of what music could be.
And over this swirling noise, Dälek the rapper spits rhymes angrily. It’s all just so fascinating.
Dälek has been making music since 1998, but they took a hiatus between 2010 and 2015. This is the 6th album that i have from this act, and all of them are fascinating. This is not light listening to put on when you are having a quiet moment at home, nor is it good music to put on for a party, when people chat and talk and dance. This is music for loud introspection -- those moments when you want something that moves along (did i mention the swirling noise of this band is often pretty fast paced?), that motivates you to move. This is good music for headphone listening as you walk, or for playing loud on the stereo as you clean the condo, or cook dinner.
There are seven songs in just under forty minutes on this record. Each one is noteworthy.
The record kicks off with a droning keyboard loop and a beat skipping along in Shattered as Dälek raps along, the music building to a whirring blur as he rhymes "shatter that" with "cataracts". He keeps saying the word "cataracts", and that throws me off a little, making me think of my elderly Aunt Patricia... But i get his meaning here, and my logical hesitation with that word is a personal issue. This song blurs along noisily.
Guaranteed Struggle features an overdriven guitar sample as the backbone, a simple riff fuzzed out and looped, and over this a beat saunters, slowed down to a simple hand-clap level, as the rap is slowed down too, the voice lower and grooving along. This is the slowest song on the record.
Dälek's raps approach their angriest on Masked Laughter (Nothing's Left), a seven-minute rant over droning wavering tones and chugging drum samples. Rek and Swarmbots really remind me of MBV and FSA here. In the middle the music parts and there is a sample of some old British guy talking about "revolutions". Dälek is so angry he is falling apart, the voice breaking and unable to stick together as the British guy is looped, repeating "terrorism" over and over and over as the song grinds to a conclusion. It's beautifully done, but not the most upbeat listening experience that one could have, just an exercise in noise used to purge anger.
Critical might be the fastest tune here, the beat a ticking hit that thumps furiously as Dälek spits his words in a hurry. This really swings over the drone, the chorus as dancey as Dälek gets as DJ Rek scratches like crazy.
Side two of the record (yes, i bought the vinyl) begins with an instrumental called 6bB. Dälek steps back and lets Rek and Swarmbots grind along. This is a stunner of an instrumental, just a grinding hip-hop beat over noise and drones. I love this track, which is not meant as a slam on the rapper here, but instead shows the real strength of his band.
Control is a weird tune in that it starts off like a mid 1990s trance tune with layers of synths and drones and a sample from an old science documentary, a clear male voice talking about something or another. I keep thinking that more layers will swirl in and the song will channel Young American Primitive, but instead a harsher beat kicks in and Dälek raps angrily, spitting out words to the beat as the song grinds along.
And finally the record ends with It Just Is a slow droner of a song to wrap up the record with a sense of resignation, as if Dälek realizes that no matter how much he points out man's insensitivity to his fellow man, people still gonna be jerks to one another.
And Dälek's just gonna keep rapping over the noise. Thank goodness.