Dälek - From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots
Dälek are the archetype of the band before their time. In the modern landscape, where acts like Death Grips can receive both critical praise and popular acceptance, Dälek would make perfect sense. Instead, their bombs detonated back when cross-fertilization between hip hop and other genres was either a one-off novelty or a hideous guitar-driven monstrosity. Their approach spliced flailing noise, free jazz wails, beats knocking like hell come-a-calling and tangled sombre lyricism, finding a greater audience within the industrial underground than among hip hop heads.
The 'Classical Homicide' split 12” with Techno Animal from 2000 still to this day feels like the band’s finest moment. Ignore the intro glued-on to the album version and just wait for the swaying drone of strings to hove into view like a trawler on choppy seas. It's a triumph; a chorus chant that lodges in the mind and on the tongue, wildness slaved to a punchy and driven structure, aggression as considered as Malcolm X’s “ballot or bullet” speech rather than the lunkheaded bragging of the average Thuglife adherent.
While Dälek’s debut Negro Necro Nekros had offered lengthy drifts of music underlining steady monologues, 'Classical Homicide' showed swift change. 2002's From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots (reissued here by Ici d'ailleurs) continued that growth. It has a honed edge fit to shatter brickwork. Again and again these songs strike fast and heavy – a precise combination of mosh-pit filling heaviness and head-filling weight. If you’re open to the harsher possibilities of beat-driven music then this is a masterclass.
It doesn’t mean Dälek weren’t still subject to experimental excesses. The twelve minute piece 'Black Smoke Rises' cuts the album in half. At the centre are the words “Black smoke rises to a Heaven I do not know…slowly gaze to take in our sorrow,” a suggestive and tactile image supple enough to form a chorus either of anger or of poignancy in another song. Rendered here as emotionally-blanked poetry amid random key stabs, dials pushed to eleven and bleating synthesizers, it’s wasted. But one misstep on a killer album - I can live with that.
Pause, skip, and get back to thrilling to Dälek’s glorious meeting of body/head.