First track: Dalek (pronounced "dialect") kicks off opener "Distorted Prose" a capella, leading into some abrasive layered feedback and a steady drum beat. They trade bars, with the screeching wind of metal taking over intermittently. It’s a violent, frustrated sound.
Second track: "Asylum (Permanent Underclass)" starts out with some abrasive layered feedback and a steady drumbeat. Dalek comes in with more of the same, only this time DJ Still scratches the emcee’s vocals around a little. It’s a violent, frustrated sound.
Third track: "Culture for Dollars" asks us, over some abrasive layered feedback, "Who trades his culture for dollars, the fool or the scholar?/ Griot poet, or white collared?" It’s a violent, frustrated sound.
Fourth track: Um, see tracks one through three.
This is Dalek’s second album on Mike Patton’s surging Ipecac label and third overall, not including their collaboration (battle?) with Faust or their remix compilation with Kid 606. The industrial landscapes of the Newark, New Jersey-based trio’s breakthrough, 2002’s From the Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots, remain, but little else has survived the transition to the accurately named Absence. Those sitars and jazz-piano samples bleeding into static and guitars-gone-wild haven’t been replaced with anything, and what’s left is producer Octopus’s stark wasteland of mostly unvaried feedback, with little to break up the monotony.
No doubt, the first time you hear Absence it’ll shock your system, and the call to arms on the record is well heeded. Unlike Clouddead, which often seem like they couldn’t care less if anyone else heard their music, Dalek clearly wants to use his soapbox. And for all intents and purposes, the emcee does a really good job: Hip-hop, wake up and do something.
But after a half hour of this, when your head has been cleared of thoughts and memories, the album becomes a faint hiss in the ear to be swatted away. With the exception of the final, definitive track, "Opiate the Masses," the multi-textual sonic palette of Filthy Tongue has been replaced with a slow drone that only seems to vary in how much it remains in the foreground of the mix. It’s disappointing for anyone who doesn’t appreciate the extremely fine tones of experimental noise-rock. But those who missed Filthy Tongue should use this opportunity to pick up that release, a disc that may turn out to be the height of this trio’s career.