Aker's Almostopster: dälek - From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots

by Aker

Mon, 10 Jun 2024

Read in 6 minutes

This entry is going to be self-indulgent, winding, maybe a bit whiny, but also - I hope - sincere: sorry. - Aker

In a dazed panic, cock-eyed and drooling, Tarb came to me with a desperate plea that I write my almostopster piece a few weeks early. Being a consummate professional, I obliged. Becoming quickly less professional, I forgot to reply to Tarb’s clingy requests in the days following. Feeling intense sympathy for the malnourished goat leader, I confirmed my position on the afternoon of Thursday 6th June. 

He asked if I was ready. I said I was. Truthfully, I wasn’t. I was in a peculiar position when he messaged on the 6th of June. I was traveling on a long train south, across borders, to attend my Nana’s funeral. I was trying to write a eulogy, edit three others on behalf of relatives, and psyche myself up and/or out in preparation for the duties. The Vortex was the last thing on my mind at the time, though its existence is a constantly kindling flame. I scroll through multiple times a day even though I feel like I have nothing to contribute - I’m afraid I don’t feel contrarian, incisive, witty, thoughtful or sociable enough to add to the energy. But, it’s still an important place to me. I still lurk, silently, my yellow specter levitating approvingly, and I’m enjoying discovering new music more than any other time in the past decade or so.

It was on the train journey to my family home, and following Tarb’s messages to get my fat yellow arse in gear, that the spheres of my life converged. It was serendipitous, icky, but I let it all slip in.  As is the case with most of my close family, emotion is expressed through football, DIY or silent introspection. On the train back, however, I allowed myself to feel raw and vulnerable. Piecing together memories of my Nana and digging, tracing and plucking out memories of dirty, flawed, repressed album experiences created a union that startled a peculiar sensation: emotion. I thank you, Tarb (my goddess, my guardian angel), for looking down at me with googly eyes and rancid goat breath and exposing me to these feelings. It has allowed for this entry to be a self-indulgent diary entry that may only lightly touch on the topic of music (whatever that is).

I wasn’t certain about my album when Tarb messaged. I had a handful of ideas, mainly teenage favourites that stunk of rotting nostalgia: Black Stone Cherry’s self titled debut, Alter Bridge’s Blackbird, Panic! At the Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Letlive’s Fake History, Metallica’s Black Album. I listened to these but felt nothing - I had sweated out those fevers and I didn’t want to write an article about being a spotty, skinny teenager. I wanted to write an article about being a less-spotty and bigger man-child. 

I have listened to a lot of minimalism over the last year and by association Steve Reich’s classical movement Different Trains (with Kronos Quartet) has been a mainstay. I considered attempting a pretentious article about trains and memory, aligning it with my week and the patterns of memory recall, but convinced myself not to take on this venture when I found myself grooving and twitching to the sick, phat, twisted and esoteric beats of dalek’s From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots. The joy of music won! I realised I wanted to recapture the mindfulness (or mindlessness) I gained from listening to the same albums over and over again when I was a teenager. I couldn’t recapture that sensation by trying to scratch old scabs; scars formed too thick. From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots, I realised, has recaptured the mindful mindlessness that I craved from my nostalgia dives. I suppose that’s why, mole-like, we sniff out new music so intensely.

Over the past five or so years, hip-hop has positioned itself at the fore of my mind. Re-explorations in the genre renewed my curiosity and reopened the verdant path of discovery and excitement. Fifteen years ago I had a similar spurt of interest, obsessed with the Rhymesayers label (Sage Francis, Atmosphere, and Eyedea and Abilities in particular), but that discovery was swiftly decapitated by the approaching horde of extreme metal. The hopping, skipping swag-attack of hip-hop has returned, pulling-up to the metal zombies and popping caps.

The alchemy of beat-craft - dicing, splicing, slicing and refining - is stupefying in From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots. dalek’s beat-craft is transcendent. Oktopus, take a bow. I am lifted by my skinny wrists to the sky pantheon of swaggering hip-hop when this album plays. Though the vocal tone, cadence and word play of MC dalek isn’t top tier, it’s more than suited to the gorgeous production and epiphanic, judgment-day tone that stains the record. 

The tracks are deep space entities: “Spiritual Healing,” a mesmeric battle-cry, a perfect introduction of clanging industrial noise and swagger; “Speak Volumes,” a gorgeous melange of industrial dreams, a shimmering, tricking alter-ego; “…From Mole Hills,” a trippy, trickling excess of scratching, uncomfortable turntablism; “Hold Tight,” an abstract, deep-space whirr that tickles and stings. It is an album that oscillates from delicate to direct and balances its tonal elements with satisfying ease. It’s a journey through dimensions and the sequencing and coupling of tracks, for the most part, works cleverly. “Voices of the Ether,” as an example, is a wonky, fever dream through unstable terrain whereas follow-up “Forever Close My Eyes” is a hip-hop lullaby that caresses and exposes; together, or in opposition, they’re uplifted.

Music | Dälek

All-but-one track on the album is superb, however. Its issue: “Black Smoke Rising,” a 12-minute monolith at the heart of the record that clogs its arteries. Placed at the end of the tracklist as a posthumous, abstract transition from the body into a bodiless space, it may have felt more approachable. Smack bang in the middle, it destroys what becomes a meditative, rich listening experience. It’s a brave positioning and one that I’ll maybe grow to appreciate. In my current stage of appreciation and exploration of this record, I’d much prefer it stationed at the end of the universe - a solitary, uncomfortable outpost and the final destination on a bodiless journey through hip-hop space. Or, exterminated from the tracklist completely, leaving a tight, muscular 44-minute record. Discard the two brief interludes (at 3 minutes together) and we’d have a 41-minute wonder. These are minor quibbles. “Black Smoke Rising” is an avant-garde trip that’s as enjoyably strange as it is uncomfortably positioned. 

As a whole, the album is enjoyably strange: both forward and backwards looking. It sounds like 2002 but wouldn’t sound out of place, or retrograde, if released today. Most importantly, it’s an album that manages to send me places with ease: something I’ve much needed lately. 


9 / 10