The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Album Review: Dalek-Abandoned Language

There's only a handful of ways to describe Dalek's Abandoned Language. Most of them involve some permutation of adjectives typically bringing to mind High School English teachers lecturing on Edgar Allen Poe. It's bleak. It's harrowing. It's chilling. It's dense, claustrophobic paranoia. Sadly though, Abandoned Language doesn't have any ravens. Instead, we get the Newark-based duo of Dalek (the MC and sometime producer) and his production partner, Oktopus, and their warped noirish masterpiece, so dark it sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, half a dozen miles underwater, completely lacking in any and all presence of light.

This is a combination of the albums I've been waiting on Cannibal Ox and DJ Shadow to do for the last half decade: a brilliant collage of eerie frigid instrumentals so cold you can practically feel the bone-rattling gusts of wind icing up your nose and ears; mixed with pure old school politically-bent lyricism. The production is a hybrid of My Bloody Valentine-esque swirls of dusty gray and ghostly white surrounded by gritty boom-bap drums.

Usually when hip-hoppers push the bar forward, at best they wind up like Subtle: intriguing but non-accessible to most hip-hop traditionalists. This is that rare album that offers something for everyone. True heads will appreciate Dalek's mission statement on the first verse of "Corrupt (knuckle up)": I script gutter beats and scribe lyrics/sounds that resonate for days off these ears that simply fear it/situate my verse six inches off curb/eternally can turn/when will these kids learn/I box with concern of elder statesmen/only breath for three decades but displayed I ain't vacant/ranks of MC's infested with fakeness...dispel your bitch rumors/tune the block with hangers/wires givin' tumors/Never write my songs for consumers/ironic, cuz' I write my songs for heads with phat laces on their Pumas."

Dalek: Rappin' Like Cannibal Ox/Lookin' Like Big Pun (at least the guy on the right)
Tracks like "Lynch" will appeal to fans of avant-garde instrumentalism, or as Ian Cohen so aptly pointed out: "I imagine this resembles what Wolf Eyes sounds like to people who don't think they're a bunch of worthless noisemakers." Indeed, through the track's five and a half minute run time, it features creepy synths stabbing through a miasma of noise, with slow assassin-like precision. Inspired by David Lynch flicks, the song could just as easily soundtrack a scene in "Mullholland Dr," or a ritualistic killing in ancient Ireland, with the Stone Aged villagers sacrificing a body and tossing it into a peat bog to let it idle, suspended for eternity. (That's the last time, I get high and go to the Natural History Museum.)

Fans of conscious hip-hop like Immortal Technique and The Coup will appreciate Dalek's clear-cut political bent. Gratefully, they never diverge into easy polemics, coating their beliefs in classic but still easy-to decipher NYC slang, as seen on the hook to "Bricks Crumble:
"Militant speech type Amiri Baraka/await actions from heads that ain't proper/words strength and emotions they foster/brinks crumble in defeat of this offer." Later, they claim to wield "assassin's arrows aimed at the affluent."

Yet the true brilliance of Abandoned Language lies in its sense of balance. This duo from the Bricks intuitively understandw how to balance their sonic density with accessibility. While I consider the Def Jukies to be among some of the most brilliant and innovative people in hip-hop, their detractors often knock them for their arrhythmic beats and incomprehensible SAT-word lyrics. Yet Dalek walk the tight rope between Mobb Deep and Cannibal Ox, a duo unafraid to experiment, yet never at the expense of listenability. Just when an instrumental is about to grow tedious, Abandoned Language veers into a hard-hitting break beat or some tough-minded yet undeniably artful lyrics. Few albums made this year capture a mood better than Abandoned Language. It's the best hip-hop album made since Fishscale. It's the first great rap album of the year.

Rating: 9.1

MP3: Dalek-"Abandoned Language"
MP3: Dalek-"Bricks Crumble"

Dalek on Myspace

Pre-Order Abandoned Language


At 3:47 AM, Blogger Charlie said...

I've been anxiously awaiting this one for a long time. Thanks for the incentive to pick it up. Sounds really hot.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Wade said...

Yeah, I dug "from the FIlty Mouths..." so I'll give this'n a listen. Well-written review, JW.
Keep it movin'.

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous DudeAsIncool said...

It's bleak. It's harrowing. It's chilling. It's dense, claustrophobic paranoia

For a moment, I thought you were writing a political column on the Bush Administration :)

Will check out Dalek--thanx

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

Just out of curiousity, what did you think of their previous album "Absence"? Do you think it is better or worse or just different? I was already looking forward to the new release and after reading your review I cant wait to pick it up.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I actually just got it recently and haven't devoted the time to it that it probably needs. So I may have to get back to you on this one. But from what I have heard of it (just a quick run-through of selected tracks) they seem to be in a similar vein.

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Jeff said...

Nice review. I'm listening to this right now, and it's just amazing. The sound just hits you like a ton of bricks. Awesome stuff.

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous chris said...

dude, if yout think this is dark and harrowing, try "absence". it'll rip your face off. massive, disturbing, and totally apocalyptic (to cut back on the adjectives). "abandoned language" sounds like chillout in comparison. good stuff, tho. glad to see them branching out without losing their signature sound.


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