I made the mistake of reading a lot of other reviews about this album before I wrote my own. What I learned is that most reviewers don’t seem to really listen past the first few songs, or at least what they note about an album seems true for only so many songs. It also seems that everyone has read everything previously said about this band and regurgitated it out in their blogs and on their crappy websites. The terms in which Dalek was discussed is no different then when they put out their last album Abandon Language and so I begin to wonder, what is the point of writing a review about an album and a band that they all seem to praise if they can’t approach the actual work. Dalek is a difficult band to talk about. They don’t fit in a neat little cubby hole, but I’ve never ever read a comparison, or the discussion of influences that I thought rang true to the bands work. Dalek is a band that , though they may profuse their love for something, seem to react, more than emulate and Gutter Tactics, continues to be their noisy reaction to the sounds that they absorb.
Dalek speaks it’s own language. An unaccustomed ear would listen to this album against the backdrop of the groups history and consider it repetitious and without growth. But it’s the nuances that flitter beneath the gridgey noise that speak volumes. Dalek is the hip-hop equivalent to Lungfish in that sense. They appear on the surface to operate within the parameters of the genre, but it is apparent they utilize their own codes and lexicon to speak. It goes beyond MC and Producer in this case, just as the quartet of Lungfish swims against the standard rock band formation. The tools are essentially the same as every other band in the brand, but it is obvious that much more experimentation is going on in the laboratories.
But Gutter Tactics is a different album. After the experimental Absence and the larger than life Abandon Language Dalek feels like they have returned to form. The problem is that this album is not really like any they have made before. The songs on this album are Dalek’s most concise and yet they still utilize that space and time to maximum capacity. The long, droning instrumental interludes are now somehow more pronounced given that they are not given the same amount of time to linger about in the air.
The band also seems to have finally found the middle ground they have always wanted. Dalek (the MC whom the group is named after) sits just on top of the sonic wiles and is now full one with the landscape of digital noise, distorted strings and echo chamber beats. Sometimes you even forget that he’s not there when they do extend the song out. This is especially true on their longest song of the album, “Who Medger Evers Was…” which is one of the most soft Dalek songs I have ever heard. It’s soothing in it’s delivery and the MC’s voice just echoes out between the two headphones.
It is surprising to note that, despite the continued construction of noisescapes, Gutter Tactics is a relatively delicate outing. By the end of the album, “Atypical Stereotype” is a whisper in the land of Dalek. The past has seen this band throw chains of noise, distortion and screeching wails at it’s listener, making building an audience all the more difficult I am sure. Gutter Tactics is by no means what I would call accessible, but where Abandon Language seemed to actually draw in the listener with Dalek’s brand of hooks, Gutter Tactics is just a much more mellow affair. It’s almost as if they have tempered the attack, skeptical of the language of “hope” and “change” that has overrun the minds of their fellow Americans. They are speaking softly here, but this does not undermine Dalek’s presence by any means. If any thing, they are more pronounced then they ever have been.