Dälek – Endangered Philosophies
Dälek's follow-up to 2016's Asphalt for Eden seems lacking in ideas
Endangered Philosophies is Dälek's eighth album in their twenty year run, and their second since returning from hiatus two years ago. The perspective gained from a four year hiatus did wonders for the group and last year's Asphalt for Eden saw them return with a vitality that had been missing for a decade. Sadly, by riding this wave of confidence and returning less than 18 months later with the follow-up (the trio's quickest turn around between LPs), Dälek seem, for once, lacking in ideas.
Musically, this album is mining familiar territory: dark ambience, brute-force beats and a general atmosphere of unease are elements that the group helped to pioneer in hip-hop in the late 90s and early 00s. However, despite being a major influencing force 10-15 years ago (see: The Bug, Yeezus-era Kanye, Death Grips, etc), this style has now been pilfered and distorted, stripped back and built upon.
The Dälek of today risk sounding a little behind the times as the era of their eerie effects and harsh, chaotic soundscapes seems to have come and gone. That is not to say that there aren't interesting moments; opener Echoes of... sounds like it's being delivered from within a swarm of bees, while the disembodied brass notes of Battlecries and the forlorn keys of Straight Razor create a texture of discomfort similar to latter day Dirty Beaches. But these moments don't add up to a cohesive whole and the long intros and outros (e.g. A Collective Cancelled Thought, The Son of Immigrants) seem indicative of a creative well running dry.
The same is true of the lyricism of the album. There are several instances of the profound insight that coloured Asphalt..., but also several refrains repeated a few too many times and an unusual lack of verse time (e.g. Numb, Sacrifice). What is said is interesting, and delivered with a fiery ferocity worthy of the howling big cat on the cover, but too often the dissonant noise serves to exemplify the disconnect between the engaging ideas and the impotence of their presentation.
Listen to: Echoes of..., Battlecries, Straight Razor