Endangered Philosophies by DälekRelease date: September 1, 2017
Dälek’s dark music and even darker message are an engrossing proposition. Carved from hip-hop but including experimental, noise, drone, shoegaze and industrial elements, their music is uncompromising, enclosing the listener in a claustrophobic sonic environment. I came at this band as a metalhead who could name just a few hip-hop acts, who embraced a wider range of sounds, including all things industrial. Dälek may be about as metal as hip-hop gets without using a guitar.
Dälek (pronounced Dai-a-lek) have been around since 1998 and Endangered Philosophies is their 8th studio album. The influence of hip-hop giants such as Public Enemy is obvious, but the noisy industrial sounds of Einstürzende Neubauten are also evident. Their industrial connection is shown by their 2010 live collaboration with the Young Gods, Griots And Gods – Les Eurockeennes Festival Belfort. Listening to Dälek immerses the listener, surrounding you on all sides with an at-times enveloping aural assault that is as thrilling as it is unsettling. Dark, caustic sounds combined with snippets of samples create edgy music that is also incredibly melodic, with a deft skill for making initially grating tones become welcoming, merging them into the body of the music.
The album opens with the dense industrial noise of ‘Echoes of…’. Angry lyrics kick in with the beat, but the rapping is almost lost in the swirling maelstrom. Distorted tannoy samples add to the mix. Lyrically the themes of political tension and racial injustice are evident from the off: “All these so-called leaders frauds, Spitting lies through weaker (broken) jaws…Truths once self-evident, Replaced by vile rhetoric… We the Echoes of Martin, of Malcolm, … Our Peoples won’t kneel!”. This is a band writing about the harsh realities life in Trump’s America for those who are not part of the privileged white elite. The anger shines through in the intense music and vocal delivery.
A mellower tone in ‘Weapons’ allows the calmer vocal to be more prominent, surrounded by a swirling ambient drone. “A brainwashed public elects inept gov’ment…More than troubling”, the lyrical theme continues. The rumbling undercurrent of a bassline breaks through the glitchy rapped samples and echoes of ‘Few Understand’, with a catchy chorus that stays with you long after the track has finished.
The powerful ‘Son of Immigrants’ starts with the line “Seen my Pops surrounded by cops with guns drawn”, but the negative is changed to a positive with an inspirational story of how the protagonist learned from his father and grew up “intent to silence naysayers”, ending with the defiant “I’m your antithesis, our sound is infinite”. Dälek vent anger, but show defiance and resolve to change the corrupt system.
The quieter ‘Sacrifice’, with a keyboard melody and sketchy beat, repeats the phrase “at a loss for words” over and over. The song mentions Dälek’s long career – “20 plus years of speaking…leaves me speechless” – and Nietzsche. Sharp intelligence and broad literary and cultural references shine through: Gil-Scott Heron on ‘Numb’, poet Leroi Jones on ‘Battlecries’ and American comedian George Carlin on ‘Sacrifice’, along with numerous political figures from Reagan to Malcolm X.
Earlier albums, notably 2007’s Abandoned Language, contained passages, entire tracks, of almost unlistenable noise but Endangered Philosophies goes slightly easier on the listener’s senses. An undercurrent of tension remains throughout but on the whole the music is lighter, less industrial, than previous albums. Nevertheless, the shadowy ‘Nothing Stays Permanent’ includes sampled voices that add to an air of intensity along with the rumbling soundtrack. ‘A Collective Cancelled Thought’ continues in a similar edgy vein with gloomy melody encased in a squally drone. Only after a couple of minutes does the beat finally kick in, blending seamlessly without taking over.
Dälek aren’t afraid to push boundaries and make confrontational music, both sonically and lyrically. They have an acerbic yet melodic sound that puts them in a field of one. The unlistenable industrial noise of previous releases is not evident here and the songs on Endangered Philosophies draw on a 20-year career to create a well-rounded, uncompromising and highly relevant album. This is your soundtrack to intelligent dissent in Trump’s America. It’s a release well worth your time and money – be sure to get a copy with a lyric sheet.