With acts like Death Grips making publicity stunts with an industrial rap backing, it’s good to have Dälek back to bring the focus back to the music itself. This New Jersey hip-hop outfit practically wrote the book on abstract, menacing noise rap. Their new album, Endangered Philosophies, possesses what many newcomers attempting to bring the noise often forget about: groove. That doesn’t mean the album resembles pop in any sense. The grooves are taken out into a droning abyss. On songs like “Weapons,” the rough-around-the-edges production creates a dark and brooding feeling as the track plays backwards to further weave its surreal web. Lyrically they ponder the world around them without getting mired down in being overtly political. There is more of an anarchist attitude at the heart of their message, as on “The Son of Immigrants,” which is more of a wake-up call than a call to arms.
What Dälek creates on Endangered Philosophies—their second album in as many years, following Asphalt for Eden—feels hypnotic on the whole. Sometimes it feels like a narcotic soundtrack into a k-hole, as this music lulls you into a womb-like environment. The hypnosis continues on “Beyond the Madness,” in which the rapping falls back further in the mix and feels more freestyled than the songs that precede it. The ambiance engulfs the production while the vocals are brought up in the mix for “Sacrifice.” Here, they break away from a formula and keep chanting the chorus, so when it breaks down to what would be a verse it feels more like a spoken word interlude.
On some of the songs they allow the drone linger more than others. The beat to “Nothing Stays Permanent” recalls ’90s-era trip-hop with dissonance-filled verses. In moments like these it reminds me of what initially made Dälek so appealing. “A Collective Cancelled Thought” is allowed to simmer for two minutes until the beat drops in. Yet it eventually loses me in its drone. The execution is better on “Battlecries,” where Ian Curtis gets name-dropped. It’s slower and more along the lines of Tricky’s dank Bristol beats. “Straight Razors” is more compressed, and flows more freely, clocking in at a leaner four minutes.
Endangered Philosophies is a needed soundtrack to the tension of the modern age, as it proves hip-hop still has darker depths to plumb, well outside of the meme raps and trap beats of the mainstream.