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Dälek - Deadverse Massive Vol. 1: Dälek Rarities 1999-2006

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Artist: Dälek

Album: Deadverse Massive Vol. 1: Dälek Rarities 1999-2006

Label: Hydra Head

Review date: Sep. 21, 2007

Dälek has an endurance that few artists I was passionate about 10 years ago have managed to keep up with. Their continued activity is the best validation I’ve got for having spent most of the mid-'90s at New York City’s Brownies nightclub, nursing a Rolling Rock at the bar, thumbing through a copy of Sound Views, and patiently submitting to the Rye Coalition and Drive Like Jehu clones that Dälek bills were customarily clouded with. The clubs, fanzines and bands from that moment in the city’s musical undercurrent have mostly disappeared, but Dälek ‘s perseverance has truly delivered for the long haul. (I can not necessarily say the same for my relationship with Rolling Rock.)

Conjure up a musical mountain of Himalayan proportions that’s born of hip hop, experimental tape loops, protrusive noise and abstract metal, and you’ll find that Dälek is riveted to the apex, holding forth with confidence and precision. With their most recent LP (Abandoned Language, Ipecac Records) still freshly burned in my memory, re-visiting these b-sides, one-off collaborations, re-mixes and otherwise hard to find tracks offers an excellent opportunity to re-assess the band’s creative output.

And the first word that comes to mind? Peerless. Deadverse Massive ably demonstrates the expected progression that any long-term creative endeavor ought to possess, but more importantly, it also shows just how on the money Dälek has been over the course of their decade-long existence. Their tireless expansion of hip hop’s early, experimental underpinnings remains in check throughout the duration, and is especially evidenced on the swamp-thick production of their collaborative tracks with Kid606, or on “Angst,” a previously unreleased instrumental which crosses ominous drones and sledgehammer beats with a Muslimgauze-like twang.

On the lyrical side, anyone who’s ever been disappointed with a so-called “underground hip hop” release for succumbing to painfully embarrassing ‘get-dem-titties-out’ pablum will find scarce grounds for any such complaints here. After all, the traditional thinking states that the headier stuff languishes somewhere well below the surface, so it’s vital to distinguish between “underground” artists who are just mimicking the mainstream, and those who are purposefully operating well beyond the boundaries of familiar practice. The memorable rhymes of Dälek’s MC have consistently delved into the darkest sanctums of human despair without once de-railing or falling backwards into vapid self-pity, and that aesthetic holds up throughout the original compositions as well as on the album’s remix tracks. (The Deadverse rendering of Enon’s “In This City” may now step to the front of the line.)

The group’s two core members (producer Oktopus and the lyricist who eponymously MCs all of their original work) have made no bid for placement atop the underground hip hop throne, but their carefully balanced devotion to touring and meticulous albums has earned them unique recognition within a number of critically sophisticated musical subcultures. Their music offers an incomparable payoff for the forward thinking hip hop fan, and I can think of no finer example of a modern ensemble that’s making all the right moves for all the right reasons.

By Mike Lupica

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