AU61: Dälek/Charles Hayward live review

January 4, 2010


This is a night for adventure, headed by an act that has achieved the impressive feat of sounding like precisely noone else. But before Dälek’s bizarre yet invigorating collision of noise and rap, it’s fitting that the support comes from Charles Hayward, a man who has spent the last 30 years resolutely going his own way. Best known as the drummer in English experimental group This Heat during the late Seventies and early Eighties, he now tours alone. Naturally enough, his masterful, expressive drumming is the main focus, but this is no smug wankathon – it’s gritty and creative, Hayward using his feet to control a phalanx of machines, layering ambient soundscapes and shards of noise under the rhythms. And there are songs, too – awkward and unlovely at times, but sung and played with real intensity. This man is pushing 60, but he puts many a young buck to shame.

Not Dälek, though. The New Jersey duo may look like a couple of meatheads when they take the stage – DJ Oktopus’s wifebeater, MC Dälek’s enormously oversized clothes on his already enormously oversized frame, topped off with a pair of sunglasses in a room that’s just a shade above pitch black – but there’s no idiotic bluster here, just an hour of surging noise, beats and rhymes. If you imagine Kevin Shields adding his guitar onslaught to Public Enemy, you’re halfway there. Despite the underlying sonics, though, the rhythms and words make Dälek no more or less than a hip-hop act, and they are keen to prove their credentials. Towards the end of the show, MC Dälek addresses the crowd for only the second time, giving heartfelt shout-outs to the late Jam Master Jay and J Dilla, amongst others. “This is my culture,” he exclaims, “these are my words, this is my motherfuckin’ life!” It’s almost as if he feels the need to publicly connect to these figures, since his band is signed to a predominantly (though nowhere near exclusively) rock label in Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings, and the vast majority of the crowd tonight is, to go on appearances alone, from the rock and metal fraternity. And sure enough, you can – and do – get lost in the blizzard of noise coming from DJ Oktopus’s laptops. But this isn’t shoegaze with a bit of rapping over the top – it’s hip-hop that’s adventurous and broad-minded enough to use a totally different sound palette to any other comparable act. And its sheer power leaves you breathless.



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