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Dälek - Abandoned Language

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Artist: Dälek

Album: Abandoned Language

Label: Ipecac

Review date: Feb. 26, 2007

Over the past 10 years, dälek (pronounced dialect) made a name for themselves with their relentless pursuit of a hybrid between Loveless and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Their albums got louder and louder, denser and denser, angrier and angrier, peaking with 2004’s Absence. Their beats didn’t change much, nor did the subject matter of their raps (neither of which is meant pejoratively), but their sense of pacing and construction made each song on their albums unique, the results of the three-way collaboration of dälek, Oktopus and Still. (Discussions about the band always get confusing here, since dälek is both the name of the group as a whole and the name of their MC. To differentiate, I’ll refer to the latter as MC dälek, even though he just goes by dälek.)

But 2007 sees a dälek changed. Somewhere over the past year or so, Still left the group, reducing them to the duo of MC dälek and Oktopus. At the same time, they’re also sidestepping their path of noise escalation. I don’t know if these two facts are connected, but it would be easy to see it that way, especially since Abandoned Language sounds more like Negro Necro Nekros (dälek’s 1998 debut from before Still joined the group) than anything more recent (save perhaps their collaboration with Faust from 2003).

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t as drastic a change as dälek would have us believe; the press release for the album includes a quote from MC dälek about how their methods have turned from density and heaviness to notes and compositions. The wall of sound is still there, but its volume has been turned down a bit, and its composition now leans more toward recognizable acoustic instruments. There is nothing quite as overt as the Gustav Holst sample in Negro Necro Nekros, but there are plenty of strings and saxophone licks thrown into the mix. And instead of creating a sense of intimidation through overpowering samples and sheer brute force, they realize it through a cinematic eeriness and minimalist disquiet.

These changes are, in the end, ones of degree, not of kind. Still may be gone, his scratching duties fulfilled here by Rob Swift of the X-cutioners, but he always seemed secondary to their overall sound. dälek has always been alternative hip-hop’s alternative hip-hop, a willfully obscure mix of intelligent rapping, odd samples, and a compositional approach more centered around development and pacing than verses and choruses (that still manages to have addictive hooks and choruses). Abandoned Language keeps all of these touchstones and swathes them in a slightly different shade of darkness, making this unmistakably a dälek record.

By Dan Ruccia

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