Review Summary: Sunrise, sunset, change seasons.
Dälek’s music has been accused of being political only in the vaguest sense, which implies that a connotation of politics requires explicit followthrough for validation; but, if anything, the industrial hip-hop group’s music is indicative of grounded frustration. In a 2005 interview with Morphizm, MC Dälek (Will Brooks) denounced any suggestion that America has progressed in terms of racial acceptance, at least beneath surface level. The interview was impassioned and whatnot, but one particular line stands out at this moment: “We made ourselves heard and felt, as the downtrodden always do.” In some way, perhaps purposefully, perhaps not, Dälek’s music mimics this group consciousness, as a thousand only-sorta-intelligible voices cause a stir that is emoted as well, if not better, than articulated. Asphalt for Eden
, like previous work, is both a systemic rally cry and an alley-dwelling lament, with multilayered dissidence. The political undertones can be a bit elusive, but it’s an accurate reflection of Brooks’ MO; in the aforementioned interview, the rapper stated a refusal for agenda pushing, and would rather incite the process of thought than a specific line of such. Arriving over ten years since, Asphalt for Eden
is admittedly questioning, rarely answering.
With nods to controversial topics like the Black Lives Matter movement, Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance, the Michael Brown shooting, etc, Asphalt for Eden
establishes itself as socially ingrained and conscious, but never hasty. Sometimes, these subtopics fade into the backdrop of what is a patient, atmospheric album. Perhaps one of the album’s greatest statements is the instrumental cut, “6dB”. The track feels like watching a mass exodus down a desert highway from a bird’s-eye view. On “6dB”, you get a sense that the greatest mode of progress is achieved wordlessly and collectively. It’s both a contrast to 2007’s Abandoned Language
and 2009’s Gutter Tactics
, the former being an example of Dälek evoking less in production and more in lyricism, the latter being more overpowering in heavy-metal and industrial influence. DJ rEk and Mike Swarmbots take turntable and productions duties, rEk being a vital component in Dälek’s early years, Mike being a prior collaborator. Will Brooks’ persona has always been balanced with equally-communicative sounds (with the slight exception of Abandoned Language
, but, hey), and Asphalt for Eden
succeeds by maintaining this, despite the absence of longtime producer Alap “Oktopus” Momin.
While some of the political motifs tend to be swept up in the sonic undertow, there are moments of blunt, relatable vexation amidst more complex ideologies. On “Masked Laughter (Nothing’s Left)”, an Aldous Huxley speech sample includes prophetic statements of cultural revolutions’ abilities to affect an individual indirectly via their surrounding environment, and subsequently using persuasion to sway people to accept the gradual changes; MC Dälek’s responses include lines like, “I don’t need a fuckin anthem, I need change / not the shit that jingles but them laws scribed to page
,” a line that, although a bit clumsy, corresponds physically with the song’s themes of suffocation, and, lyrically, with a desire for concrete change rather than band-aid solutions. Closer “It Just Is” sees Dälek at both their most serene and their most helpless, with an apathetic condemnation. The refrain, “it ain’t gonna be alright-right-right […] it just is,
” is hazy and lethargic, and one of the powerful moments on an album full of dystopian allusions. Ultimately, regardless of how invested you choose to be in the sentiments of pessimism and dejection, Asphalt for Eden
is thoughtful and eclectic, blending elements of shoegaze, industrial, boom-bap, and ambience both sedative and rousing. All the while, it balances a grim, overarching societal direction with a thwarted attitude. Much like the early industrial music from which they draw influence, Dälek have always sounded best nestled between transcendence and self-conflict.