Precipice by Dälek

Release date: April 29, 2022
Label: Ipecac Recordings

Union City hip hop act Dälek have previously barely registered on my musical radar, coming off the back of them being signed to Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings label. Thankfully, I had a listen to ‘Decimation (Dis Nation)’, the lead track from album number five, Precipice. Intrigue suitably peaked, the album finds its way in my earphones and I’m extremely happy it did. Having said that, this record is exceedingly bleak and the overriding atmosphere is shadowy and laden with an air of doom. Initiated before the world succumbed to Covid-19, the group returned to complete the album with renewed energy and this is evident in the tracks therein.

MC Dälek explains “Precipice was a completely different record pre-pandemic…We had been working on the sketch of what the album was going to be at the end of 2019…2020 obviously had different plans for everybody…when I went back and listened to what we had…it just wasn’t right anymore, it wasn’t strong enough, it wasn’t heavy enough, it wasn’t angry enough. It just didn’t say what I needed it to say”. Well, I can clarify that this redesign of the album satisfies all of that criterion, from start to finish.

The instrumental opener ‘Lest We Forget’ rolls out some deep throbbing drones that slowly creep like glacial masses colliding together. Raising tension in the listener for the impending music where the intensity will not let up throughout the album’s duration. As the track winds to a close the drones shift into something more hopeful sounding. For a track where not much happens, it’s incredible how the ambient layers transform your emotions. ‘Boycott’ has a lurching woozy beat that clangs along while layers of industrial drones twist and mutate like Kevin Shields is on the mixing desk. Mike Manteca has done an amazing job using a lifetime’s creativity with these sublime soundscapes. It’s just incredible and the density of the intensity is a real force to be reckoned with. The voices may be buried deep in the mix but MC Dälek rasps “I been tried telling you…society’s been failing you!” Those off kilter looped strings at the end reminiscent of Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday’s warped gothic tones.

 

The booming bass and crisp beats on ‘Decimation (Dis Nation)’ is just the kind of murky instrumentation I love to hear, not like some of the tinny shit that constitutes a lot of modern hip-hop. The atmospherics ooze a dark malevolence and threat, like the soundtrack to a seriously bad day. Yet it’s utterly absorbing. The genius looping of bass and drums in ‘Good’ get completely swamped by a glorious swirling wash of reverbed guitars (I’m guessing). The instrumentation on this album is truly outstanding, Dälek really have reached deep into their creative minds to conjure up these hypnotic sounds. MC Dälek revisits the outrage at the senseless killing of George Floyd with the lyrics “If we breathe wrong, we can’t breathe, Choke holds and knees, Taught like birds and the bees”. ‘Holistic’ features a bass groove so deep it made my brain feel like it was vibrating in my head, when listening through ear buds. A host of creepy synths bring a horrific atmospheric but it’s enthralling.

Heavy beats and chilling drones get mutated and reversed giving ‘The Harbingers’ a sickening sound as the mood takes another step into the never-ending downward spiral. MC Dälek rages to “Suffocate all the misogynists, racists and narcissists, Force feed these diseased minds arsenic, My daydreams are marvellous!”. Finally the murky fog lifts with the dreamy swathes of uplifting drones in ‘Devotion (When I Cry the Wind Disappears)’. MC Dälek laments “Amid this chaos I lack the language to explain this world’s anguish. Or why we are ALL so damaged. And in the midst of this mess…I find myself still wishing… that these words reach newly-formed ears. I truly hope we can converse in these coming years”.

The beats align by barely being there save for some booms and shakes. This track sounds absolutely enormous such is the might of the heavenly drones as the clouds part and the sunrays reach through, bringing a joyous release. ‘A Heretic’s Inheritance’ features a heavily warped guitar riff courtesy of Tool’s Adam Jones. The clanging ghost-train-wreck beat is then joined with a twisted and bizarre loop of indeterminable instrument that is deeply hallucinogenic.

For title track ‘Precipice’ the noisy drones suggest deathly destruction as the beats grind with a funereal pace creating a doomy dirge. The murkiest track on album and real test of endurance such is the overriding feeling of darkness and despair. The album ends with ‘Incite’, which spins out a swirling pattern of sounds that suffocate as there’s no moment in the loop to grasp onto, so you feel ungrounded. Since the album was recorded war in Ukraine brings a whole new horrific meaning to the lyric “Genocide! With a catchier name. Perhaps building empires has all been in vain”. As the track grinds to closure MC Dälek chants “For the writers and the crowd inciters, on frontlines…” over a heavy intense set of loops.

There’s no doubt Dälek are the finest purveyors of this particular brand of hip-hop. Other acts such as Ho9909 or Death Grips are too manic in their attack for me, I prefer this slowed down collision of drones and distorted ambience over thunderous slamming beats. Definitely not an album for summer, nor is it likely to bring about anything approaching happiness or joy. But these are terrible times, the world is a fucking gutter with pandemics, wars, social decay, corrupt governments and rotten attitudes in humanity from an early age. Dälek have just taken all of the world’s ills and produced one of modern hip hop’s most challenging and important albums.

Pin It on Pinterest