Gutter Tactics

New Jersey duo Dälek have a formulaic approach to hiphop. Fortunately, it's a uniquely compelling formula. Nobody, save for maybe Kevin Martin (see Ice's Bad Blood and Techno Animal's The Brotherhood of the Bomb), really has welded drone and noise-rock elements to steadfast boom-bap rhythms like Dälek. Just when you think they can't possibly wring any more juice out of this steez, though, they come back with yet another potent slab of producer Oktopus's swirling discord and MC/producer Dälek's armor-piercing verbal bullets.

The antithesis of bling, Dälek continue to bang their beats and rhymes against thick walls of ignorance and apathy on their sixth album, Gutter Tactics (that it's on Mike Patton's Ipecac label underscores how far from mainstream—and even underground—rap these guys dwell). Beyond El-P, Cannibal Ox, cLOUDDEAD, or Antipop Consortium/Beans, Dälek push hiphop to its furthest extreme. Sonically, they have more to do with Xenakis's prickly textures, Einstürzende Neubauten's clangor, and My Bloody Valentine's blurred beauty than they do with anything iTunes classifies as "rap."

"Blessed Are They Who Bash Your Children's Heads Against a Rock" opens Gutter Tactics with Reverend Jeremiah Wright's speech outlining America's numerous violent atrocities worldwide. Now that they have your attention, Dälek proceed to envelop you in sooty, bassy waves of distortion and strident metallic oscillations, bolstered by the sturdiest funk known to Ultimate Breaks and Beats aficionados. The densely layered noise makes Dälek's accusatory words hard to discern, but their tone alone speaks volumes. He decries hiphop's morally bankrupt materialism and vivisects institutional corruption; the subject matter may be old, but that doesn't mean these persistent problems aren't worth addressing in fresh ways. Lest you think Obama's victory cheers them up, Dälek asserts in "No Question": "A black president don't ensure the sunshine / A rich president represent his own kind."

Even if Dälek are preaching to the converted, their sermons are bracing and their soundtrack is inspirationally claustrophobic. Dälek's paradox is that their oppressive music is ultimately liberating. recommended