Dälek works in the shadows. Sputtering, shrieking beats simmer in a cauldron of dank, grimy textures whose intricacy recalls golden-age rap producers such as Prince Paul or Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad. It's a comparison the Newark, N.J., native welcomes.
"I'm all for retro sounds," says Dälek. "I think the current stuff misses the groove. I miss hearing a dirty drumbeat. Everything is so pristine. This isn't classical music."
Dälek met producer Oktopus with whom he collaborates on the arrangements at William Patterson University, and in 1998 they released Negro, Necro, Nekros on Gern Blandsten. The raw sound and throttling, primitive beats made an immediate impression and drew critical raves. The style, Dälek says, was partially inspired by "My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. After hearing that, it completely changed my perception of music in general, what you can do in a studio, and what's considered a good mix."
The fact that Dälek's lyrics are often buried in the dark, anxious mix contributes to the distinctiveness of his sound.
"I just want the lyrics to be part of a song, rather than how most hip-hop records' lyrics … are so over the top and loud in the mix. I never want to do that, for aesthetics and because I don't have an ego like that," he says. "Absence `the latest album` was our first attempt to find some balance, and actually bringing them out some more, making the lyrics a little more accessible, but still keeping that wall-of-sound atmosphere."
Since he was a child, Dälek has immersed himself in hip-hop culture, which hardly limits his appreciation of other genres. Digging through the record crates as an MC back in the day, it was all about finding new music. "The whole thing was to find records with parts that no one else had played," he says.
Given the cold, hollow, atmospheric clang of some of his beats, it's not surprising Dälek is a big fan of seminal Krautrockers Faust. Apparently the band heard Dälek's shout-out on "Classical Homicide" ("How many MCs know who Faust is?"), and invited him to Germany to record 2004's Derbe Respect, Alder with them. The music legends offered words of encouragement.
"`Keyboardist Hans` Joachim `Irmler` grabbed me and said, 'You guys are amazing. You're just like us.' I'm like, 'Wow, thanks.' And he says 'Yes, you'll never make any money,'" Dälek says. "I was like, 'Can you please just stop the compliments now?' It's the whole artist thing people will love this when I'm gone, which is cool. They'll be talking about the genius of Dälek.
"It'd be cool to be recognized someday. My kids will be, 'OK, maybe Dad wasn't such a sucker.'"
with Meat Beat Manifesto
8 pm Monday, Feb. 20