Where bands would once dramatically split, in recent years this trend has been seemingly replaced with the more friendly-sounding ‘hiatus’. Underground New Jersey hip-hop act Dälek entered theirs in 2011 only to reform with little warning last year and, as with most reformations, after a tour focusing on old material follows the often nail biting proposition of a new album. Dälek, with Asphalt For Eden, are no different.
Having previously released four albums for Mike Patton’s Ipecac label and played shows with The Melvins and Tool among many others, the band have secured themselves a cult following and a hard fought reputation for deftly constructing socially conscious hip-hop that walks the tightrope between the avant-garde and the fringes of the mainstream.
Their last album Gutter Tactics may have entered the world as far back as 2009, but this new material shows no sign of them either being a creatively spent force or looking keen to latch onto current trends. Instead Asphalt For Eden sees them stay reliably true to the band's original artistic blueprint of creating rap music that's dark natured, noisy, and at times heavily atmospheric.
Opener "Shattered" is built around a walking rhythm with a splattering of controlled squall, but though it doesn’t punch with the same heavyweight thrust as, say, "Distorted Prose" - the opener from their third album Absence - there is still enough present to suggest that Dälek haven’t settled into midlife predictability. Instead it eases us back into their acquaintance before the darkly textured "Guaranteed Struggle" sees them take full advantage of their wide sonical palette.
Their layering of haunting otherworldly sounds forms a constantly shifting sonic texture that coats beats and old school scratches and shows Dälek have mastered the art of embracing abrasive noise and using it as an extra colour in which to paint upon their own mutant glitch-hop. But contained within there are also signs that they may have slightly mellowed; "Masked Laughter (Nothings Left)" has the sonic remnants of My Bloody Valentine's ghostly spirit flowing at its forefront (though the words still land with a heavy impact), while instrumental "6DB" offers a six minute respite that sees an echoing and hypnotic riff embed itself with a bed of shortened beats and swirling, trance-inducing melodies.
Dälek's experimentally minded hip-hop is essentially designed to push boundaries, and though it should be of little surprise that old school tendencies have crept out and across onto these seven tracks, they are not so tied to the method that it should hinder their creative future. Instead, Dälek have stepped out just enough to create an album that sits comfortably within the band's discography, and deserves to be cherished.