From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots
ity the man who loves a loser for he is the one who’s lost. Whether it be pulling a blanket over your passed-out father or turning sad-eyes upon a wife who habitually smells of smoke, liquor or semen, loving the self-destructive is a task that is often as depressing as it is admirable. There is nobility to be found in a man’s dedication to a lost cause; it prevents him from being pathetic. You cannot laugh at him; you can only confusedly shake your head and ask “why”?
The answer cannot be found by watching him dole out doomed devotion. It can only be found in the history that man shares with the object of his affection. He knows that his father can be witty, thoughtful and warm (when he’s sober), and he knows that if he tries a little harder each day he can once again share a life with the sparkling beauty he fell in love with years ago (before she began fucking everyone in sight). In a constant state of denial, blinded by love, desperate for recognition, he digs deep within himself for the power to impress those who won’t notice and the wherewithal to cope with the fact his father’s no good and his wife is a whore.
There is no bigger whore in the world of music than hip-hop. A bloated, sagging slut who spreads for anyone willing and able to improve her night out of the house, hip-hop is constantly being manipulated and defiled by disrespectful scum while, at home, the only man who can still see her heart rocks their children to sleep. She is a laughingstock, and thanks to a zeroed-out self-image, she laughs right along with those who bruise, fuck and ruin her.
Dalek can be counted among the remaining few who still invest enough hope in hip-hop to leave a light on for her. They fell in love with her past glories and are determined to make other people see that she is not yet a travesty. Some will say they are kidding themselves -- investing so much heart, soul and innovation into a tired, unfaithful hag -- but they will be wrong. If more outfits tried this hard to justify their love for hip-hop, they might be able to keep her from further disgrace.
From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots is a confounding dare of an album. Dare to understand it; dare to explain it; dare to give into it. It’s a cacophonous beast of hip-hop art that rapes speakers while raising spirits. Don’t call it alt-hop, don’t call it avante garde. Just call it what it is: the best rap to be released this year. It is dream music: hazy and otherworldly, frightening and unfathomable, more imaginative than anything our conscious minds can conceive.
Whether it’s the dark, measured wit of Dalek himself or the mind-fuck production of his cohorts Oktopus and Still, every second of this album screams with creativity. Often a mix of psychedelia, trip-hop, noise and rap, the songs on From Filthy Tongue are immediately gratifying and startlingly dense. The howling industrial refrain of “Spiritual Healing” is the first indication of the album’s consistently brooding majesty. For the most part static-ridden and abrasive, “Spiritual Healing”, as many of the tracks do, leaves space for quiet guitar and piano moments that stick their necks out just far enough to have their heads cut off.
A number of the songs sway and bob in a highly digitized realm. “...From Mole Hills” and “Hold Tight” are prime examples, thoughtful splices of noise and mechanical beats which, despite their robotic leanings, still sound more fierce and feral than any organic hip-hop. The secret is in the bass, the drums and the rhymes. While the majority of the sounds you’ll hear on From Filthy Tongue are often either heavily manipulated or have no logical place within a hip-hop context, giving the album its distinctiveness, it’s Dalek’s grasp of hip-hop’s fundamentals which embed the songs into your memory. The raps are sharp and thoughtful, the bass is deep and incessant and the drums are inescapably loud.
Despite the aggression of much of the album -- the murderous schizophrenia of “Voices of the Ether”, the rabid scratching and distorted shouts of “Classical Homicide”, the twelve minutes of free-form destruction that is “Black Smoke Rises” -- there is time for beauty and reflection. From Filthy Tongue would not be the album it is without “Speak Volumes” and “Forever Close My Eyes”. Both heavily layered and absolutely gorgeous, “Speak” and “Forever” expand Dalek’s -- and hip-hop’s -- palette to include ebbing waves of synths and mountains of delay that soothe and massage the cuts and bruises handed out throughout the rest of the album.
Most would abandon a wife like hip-hop, knowing full well that sharing your life with someone so baseless and confused will lead to nothing but pain. There are others, however, who know that love and devotion can help a person transcend the messes they make for themselves. These people are few, and they could easily be considered losers themselves, but they are only lost in a love they couldn’t kill if they tried. Dalek is among this group of admirable losers, and with From the Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots they have succeeded in making hip-hop once again something worthy of attention, worthy of patience, worthy of awe.
Reviewed by: Clay Jarvis
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01