Artist: dälekTitle: AbsenceRating: 2 StarsReviewed by: Kevin Polowy
There’s a lot to be said for sheer distinction in today’s increasingly expansive Hip-hop arena, and dälek’s third album, Absence (Ipecac), plunges the New York trio even further into the inscrutable abyss of industrial rap. But as far as dälek (pronounced “dialect”) veers from the most avant garde of alterna-rap stylings, the more the limited their reach becomes.
Not that they care, most likely, yet it’d be a shame to break it to them that Absence has a better chance of igniting recently converted rock-rap minions – that a generation ago woulda been banging their heads to metal – than Hip-hop purists hungry for a stinging slice of truth from KRS-One.
Speaking of Boogie Down’s poet laureate, this band’s emcee – also named dälek – has some serious and significant s### to say across the spectrum of social issues, and doesn’t waste so much as a metaphor on irrelevancies. A crisp 30-second acapella commencing the album sets the effusive wheels in motion (“A bastard child of Reaganomics posed in a b-boy stance/ Makes our leaders play minstrel/ Left with none to lead our people/ How the f### I’m a-shake your hand when we’ve never been seen as equal”) on “Distorted Prose” – but the screaming soundscapes that set in and ensue are a reminder that these guys are captains of industrial, and perhaps this track’s moniker better encapsulates the LP, at least to a listener bent on studying a wordsmith’s craft.
dälek’s vocal artillery, however, shares equal billing with the group’s thunderous production, as duties are approached by all but led by Oktopus. Constructed atop mostly downtempo foundations, the oftentimes piercing beats tend to layer multiple chords and guitar riffs with the most intense of MPC reverberations. And while the greater half of Hip-hop conventions are respectfully discarded here, Still lays down some nasty cuts that could help headz find their bearings, and even dices up a dare-I-say-catchy melody or two on “Eyes To Form Shadows.”
The heated harangues of “Culture for Dollars” ensure us we won’t see dälek hawking Sprite anytime soon, and the rapper’s defiance against that other kind of industry gets tenser as he avows “modern slavery signifies corporate greed” on “ A Beast Caged.” The latter cut culminates with a penetratingly spooky outro that made me recall the most grotesque moments of Saw before nearly driving me under the sanctuary of my bed.
On “Asylum,” dälek navigates an insanely intricate beat progression as he encourages his contemporaries (and listeners) to transcend status quo. With Absence, he and his crew lead by example, but the band’s hardcore industrial composites are a damn hard sell. For anyone whose folks once tactlessly referred to their M.O.P. or Rage records as “noise,” they ain’t heard nothin’ yet.