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Newark, New Jersey's Dälek undermine the simplistic gloss of mainstream rap with gritty, complex underground hip-hop that at once clicks and whirs like some electronica head trip, layers on environmental ambience, and assaults the listener with aggressive, intelligent rhymes. Recalling the Bomb Squad's innovative production style but pushing further into the avant-garde, sometimes stretching their tracks past the ten-minute mark and incorporating drones and atonal noises, Dälek took the industrial hip-hop sound of the '80s and '90s to its extreme, paving the way for noise-rap groups like Death Grips and clipping. Making their debut with 1998's Negro Necro Nekros, Dälek toured heavily and released widely acclaimed, challenging albums like 2002's From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots and 2005's Absence, additionally collaborating with Faust, Techno Animal, Kid606, and many others. After a brief hiatus during the early 2010s, the group reformed with an updated lineup, and their release schedule continued with confrontational, boundary-pushing albums such as 2017's Endangered Philosophies and 2022's Precipice. Producer Alap Momin (Oktopus) and MC Will Brooks (also referred to as dälek) met at William Patterson University in the mid-'90s and began collaborating. Soon Brooks dropped out of school, cashed in his loans, and put his money into his home studio. The duo's first album, Negro Necro Nekros, was released on Gern Blandsten in 1998 to critical acclaim. The record combined elements of German industrial innovators Einstürzende Neubauten, the rock grit of the Velvet Underground, shoegazer density, and IDM beats with insightful lyrics. Consequently, Dälek were named on Urb's Next 100 list. During their relentless tour schedule, the duo met Hsi-Chang Lin (DJ Still) at a college show and asked him to join the group. Dälek spent the next few years on the road, opening for acts like De La Soul, Prince Paul, DJ Spooky, the Rye Coalition, the Dillinger Escape Plan, the Pharcyde, and the Roots. A split EP with Techno Animal appeared on Matador in 2000, and Kid606 collaboration Ruin It was issued by Tigerbeat6 in 2002. Dälek's second full-length, From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots, was released on Ipecac Recordings in August 2002. The record expanded their already broad sound and fully realized the group's position beside hip-hop innovators like Antipop Consortium and cLOUDDEAD. In 2004, Staubgold issued Derbe Respect, Alder, Dälek's unexpected collaboration with Krautrock legends Faust. This was followed in 2005 by Absence, which brought them their greatest attention to date, and in early 2007, the dark, brooding Abandoned Language came out. In July of that same year Deadverse Massive, Vol. 1: Dälek Rarities 1999-2006, a collection of hard to find or previously unreleased tracks, came out on Hydra Head. A collaborative single with post-rock band My Education was issued by Thirty Tigers during the same month. An EP with New Jersey-based shoegaze group Ifwhen followed on Claire's Echo. In 2008, Brooks founded his own label, Deadverse Recordings, and released Oddateee's Halfway Homeless that autumn. That year, as well as completing an extensive European tour, he also finished construction on his private recording facility Deadverse Studios -- a 1,000-square-foot studio located nine blocks away from his apartment in northern Jersey. There, he and Oktopus started meticulously piecing together their fifth album, Gutter Tactics, which was released on Ipecac in January of 2009. An untitled album consisting of a single 44-minute piece recorded in 2005 was issued by U.K. label Latitudes in late 2010. Oktopus moved to Berlin that year, and the group became inactive in 2011, although they never issued an official breakup statement. Brooks started a new project called Iconaclass with Carlos Dorticos (aka Dev-One), who had contributed to Dälek's last two albums for Ipecac. The LP For the Ones and the EP I Got It both appeared on Deadverse in 2011. Four years later, Iconaclass released a cassette-only album titled Changing Culture with Revolvers. Also in 2015, Brooks assembled a new lineup of Dälek, with the approval of Oktopus. Rounded out by producer Mike Manteca (of Destructo Swarmbots) and DJ rEK, both of whom had worked on previous Dälek recordings, the trio recorded Asphalt for Eden, which was issued by Canadian metal label Profound Lore in 2016. The group returned to Ipecac for the follow-up, 2017's Endangered Philosophies. The six-song EP Respect to the Authors appeared on Exile on Mainstream Records in 2019. Eighth full-length Precipice was released by Ipecac in 2022. Primarily made by the duo of Brooks and Manteca, the album included a guest appearance from Adam Jones of Tool.
© Charles Spano & Paul Simpson /TiVo
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