Dälek - From filthy tongue of gods and griots [Ipecac - 2002]
Discovered on a February night, Dälek brought some happiness in what had been a very bad 24 hours for me. Opening for Tomahawk, they caught me off-guard with a very heavy set and then revealed themselves as being very nice, down-to-earth blokes, deserving everybody’s attention. Four years after their debut album Negro, Necro, Nekros, please welcome From filthy tongue of gods and griots...
Four years is a long time so one might wonder what the hell have they been up to? The answer is simple: collaborations with artists such as Kid606, Techno Animal, 2ndGen or Faust, constant touring which brought to them new friends, new cultures and above all a real evolution in their sound. When their first album was more of a laid-back, quiet record, From filthy... is a savage assault that will leave your ears buzzing, hurting. For when you listen to this album you can only admit that, yes, working with Kid606 or Techno Animal made sense. Still firmly grounded in hiphop territories, Dälek music goes far beyond the said genre, incorporating elements coming from very diverse sources. Old-school industrial, drone, Indian music, maybe even cold-wave have their say in this mixture and never feel out of place. Guitars have also an important role, and in this the band succeed where most failed. One has just to remember the latest Cypress Hill records, P.Diddy ridiculous Kashmir cover or Metal bands use of rapping to smell the smell of lame failure, but don’t be scared: here is no rap with guitars or guitars with rapping, the discreet yet undeniable presence of guitars being one of the many (yet essential) ingredients making of this record such an interesting listen.
The beats are heavy, distorted, saturated, on many tracks you get some sort of background buzz, no peace for your brain to be expected, not easy-listening background music, no Ja-Rule, no air-play, no MTV, this is music, not soup, not soap, no supermarket product, no moronia flag proudly worn, this intelligence in action.
If you are not off to your local CD-shop yet, then I guess I must be more specific, and give you details about some songs... God, I hate that but, well, I’m gonna do it anyway. The first track, Spiritual Healing (downloadable on their site), sets the mood for the whole record, being extremely saturated, industrially sounding, and yet very catchy (if your head doesn’t bang, and if you don’t sing along on the chorus, it means that you are dead, sorry, RIP). In the same vein, yet more mellow, less in-your-face, Speak Volumes is also damn addictive. After the fifth track you might think that you grasped the atmosphere of the album. You don’t know how wrong you are... Heads is the warning signal saying “Beware!!! Something strange is going to erupt from your speakers”, the short track made of ambience noises and sounds preparing the ground for the majestic, 12 minutes long Black Smoke Rises, assemblage of guitar feedback, drones, blip blop beep noises and the voice of Dälek calmly intoning what sounds like a mantra. Trampled Brethren is a return to more normal fields (well, normal for Dälek that is) featuring, alongside the usual already talked about style of beats of this album, Indian sounds and a Tabla player. Forever close my eyes (track 10) is probably my favourite song and is yet again a big surprise (how come I don’t stop getting surprised by From filthy...? By now, I should be warned...) as it is the work not of producers but of what sounds like a band in the traditional sense... Real drums, spacey keys, guitars (even slide guitar), bass, tambourine, making of this an entrancing track, sending you up right into the sky for 7:49 of pure delight. Almost a spiritual experience. After this, the landing is brutal, Classical Homicide echoing the first track, only a little more subtle (not that Spiritual Healing lacked subtlety), in the sheer aggression it conveys.
Speaking of lyrics, please pay attention to what Dälek has to say, it ain’t your usual dope as some might say... Questioning religions (don’t run away, no clichés here), professing his faith in hiphop, speaking words of wisdom (“We breath too much nonsense” a.o), we are very close to literature (visit Dälek’s website to get convinced). After having name-checked Abraham, Julius Caesar, Miles Davis, Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, DaVinci, Reich, Dälek says in Classical Homicide “how many MC’s know who Faust is?”. There is only one thing left to say: “yes, how many?”. When Dälek endlessly repeat “Amplify brainwaves to condense my thought/ bends the dark/ why question my art?” in the same song , there is only one thing to say: “yes, why?”
Expect the unexpected. Break the rules should be the mother of all rules. We are speaking Dälek here. It’s good. Crazy. Wicked. Fucked-up. Insane. Tense. True. Honest. Nasty. Beautiful. Leave me alone, I’m gonna weep for a while now.François Monti