November of 2015 was humid. We had a true rainy season in Atlanta, the storms rolling in one after the other. It was depressing, to be honest. I am a solar-powered music reviewer and need occasional bursts of sunlight in order to keep cranking out the reviews for my (un)adoring public.
Fortunately early November offered an excellent reason to get out on the night after an off-year election: the return of the mighty Dälek to The EARL. It has been a while since i have seen this act. The last review was 10 years ago, but i think i saw them once more but never got around to writing about it...
Since then the band has been rebuilt. Octopus and Still are gone, replaced now with rEk and Mike Swarmbots (love that stage name Mike!).
So on a very humid Tuesday, Tracers and i headed out into the humidity to see avant-garde noise rap.
The EARL was pretty empty, but it was a Tuesday. The stage was full of lots of different tables of gear.
The only actual "instrument" that i could see was a keyboard, but who knows what was on the tables and hidden from view. No one was hiding a guitar, but there might have been multiple keyboards, or, i dunno, kazoos or something...
The keyboard was used during the first act when Alexa Lima of Waking Astronomer took the stage.
The act was called Wake (i am sensing a theme in the nomenclature of Lima's bands) and they were a four-piece act that also included a few guys with tables of gear and a rapper.
Actually, it turns out that one of the guys with gear also raps. So, two rappers, some electronics, and keyboards.
The two guys rapped over some ambient style music at first, their voices forming a rhythm over the washes of sound. Most of the songs had glitch-y type beats, as if Autechre in the mid-90s had gone into rap. That was a pretty neat effect overall.
He's playing Incunnabula for the guys to rap over...
A few times Wake also reminded me of Beastie Boys. Then again, my rap vocabulary is pretty limited, so there might be other references in there that i was not getting.
Wake were okay, i guess. For an opening act at an avant-garde hip-hop show they were what i expected. The next band, however, was completely unexpected. Not in my darkest nightmares would i have imagined something like Fiatnil.
This band had two members - one of whom was dressed like a 1920s New England professor in a tweed suit, sweater vest, and pointy beard while the other had his head mostly shaved except for a hair cross on one part, was covered in tattoos, and had one of those gross ear-stretching things going on. So you had Professor Beard and the Modern Tribalist Guy, both of whom had tables of electronics.
Professor Beard also had a microphone, not that he "sang". Such a term is too mundane for what Fiatnil do. He kind of yelled and/or talked into the microphone, at times. Whatever he was "singing" (and, perhaps mercifully, i could not hear the words!) was in a sort of sing-song manner like a child's song, and that kind of reminded me of early stuff by The Legendary Pink Dots.
Otherwise, i had nothing on this act. Fiatnil made noise. Not noise music, as i was really hard pressed to find any kind of rhythm or even pattern to the beats and washes of odd sounds that they were making. At times, and i will admit that this is stretching a bit, they were like the weird moments of Skinny Puppy.
To be short: i hated this. What. The. Fuck!?!?! Why did anyone think that this was interesting enough to do, much less perform live?
And, to further stress that i do not understand humanity -- they had fans! That's right, there were people who eagerly moved forward when Fiatnil took the stage. They took pictures, cheered, and i think one guy even tried to "sing" along.
I have no response whatsoever. It has been a long time since i have seen something so utterly unenjoyable, and i hope that it will be a long time until i see something like this again. I was reminded of what Octopus said to me at that Dälek show in 2005: "This is headache music, in that it gives you a headache." I hope their fans enjoyed the performance.
I am not sure what the new Dälek lineup thought of this, but after Fiatnil moved their gear off (their fans all came up to talk to them!) Dälek and his new crew took the stage at 11:24pm, which is kind of late for a work night, so i was glad that i had chosen to burn a vacation day the next day.
Despite the lineup change, this was the Dälek i knew and loved. Angry, odd beats alongside droning music and the angry ranting in that husky voice.
Dälek also raps through a bunch of effects pedals...
They played to about 25 people (i counted) who stood like posts and nodded their heads. Still, the trio seemed like they were having a lot of fun. Dälek (the rapper) was grinning and bouncing around while rEk and Mike Swarmbots shook and danced and bounced behind their respective tables.
Dälek make music for the urban apocalypse. Sounds drone and beats crunch while the voice raps about the futility of life. I, personally, find them utterly enthralling and tonight's set was no different.
I am really glad that Dälek are back in action, and i look forward to their next release.