Songs stumbled upon, songs remembered, songs because why the hell not?
For a while there Dälek were probably the only explicitly political band worth listening to. It probably helped that their only competition at the time were white dudes controversially pointing out that Dubya wasn’t the smartest of guys, but in any era the run from From the Filthy Tongues of Gods and Griots to Abandoned Language would be pretty much untouchable. MC dälek’s flow may not be able to boast much in the way of variation or dexterity but what he lacked in dynamics he made up for with raw, burning passion. Absence, perhaps their finest hour, begins with some of the most ferocious, incendiary lyrics ever committed to tape. “How the fuck can I ever shake your hand when we’ve never been seen as equal?” he spits towards anyone under the misguided impression that racial politics are somehow ok now. Then Oktopus, a sonic visionary if there ever was one, brings down what sounds like an apocalypse at the hands of giant machinery. It’s Industrial music if the term were taken literally – as much a product of harrowing soundscapes David Lynch dreamt up in his Eraserhead days as Throbbing Gristle.
Megaton (deadverse remix) starts by showcasing the other more subtle side of Oktopus’ toolkit. A dark, brooding loop of some noir-esque jazz number full of lonesome guitar lines and subtly mangled strings rolls out over a slow, narcotic beat. It seems constructed with rainy streets in mind, of late night Taxi Driver street scenes, portraits of humanity at it’s most bored and depraved between the dark of the night and the glow of neon. MC dälek speaks of masks disintegrating, idols selling out, a “corpse-culture nicely packaged for corporate vultures”, scanning religion, politics and the state of rap culture with an indignant, unsatisfied eye. It’s an unsettling vision of the world made further unsettling by his voice being shadowed by a distorted, quieter version playing a few bars ahead, a disorienting timeshift that keeps you wrong-footed throughout. It’s no wonder that by final line MC dälek is longing for the apocalypse. Oktopus duly brings it with drums that sound like they mean to do physical harm and a climax which gives a taste of the carnival of static he ran on Absence. It’s a song of two halves – one showcasing the nuances that made Abandoned Language so intriguing and one bringing the aural punishment of Absence.
Dälek returned this year without Oktopus. It remains to be seen whether the new line up can match the likes of Megaton. If so then we might just see one of hip hop’s most incendiary voices reborn. If rumoured collaboration with Blut Aus Nord comes to pass then we’ve certainly got some interesting times ahead..