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Dälek dark, dark, dark as hell…

By Ahsan Sajid

Dälek'S third studio album, Absence, is probably the only hip-hop record that is better known among experimental rock fans than among hip-hop fans, and that's not a surprise at all; Dälek is signed to Ipecac, the record label of Mike Patton, the madman and Red Bull junkie of experimental music with a thousand bands, including Mr. Bungle, Faith No More, Fantomas, Tomahawk etc. The label also signed experimental, avant garde metal band Isis. And a hip-hop group among them? Yes, curiosity's properly peaked by now.

Dälek plays hip-hop unlike any you've heard before; it's immensely heavy, powerful stuff. Some of the tracks on Absence, their third and most consistent album, are the darkest and most sinister sounding songs you'll hear in a long time. You'll find it heavier than most metal, and they do this without playing metal guitar riffs. Dälek's music undermines the simplistic and superficial gloss and shine of mainstream hip-hop with their gritty, complex underground hip-hop that at once whirs like an electronic head trip, borders on ambience and assaults the listener with aggressive and intelligently executed noise samples.

Described as trip-hop, glitch-hop, and metal- shoegaze-hip-hop , Dälek's music is dark, noisy and atmospheric, equally inspired by industrial legends like Einstürzende Neubauten, the layered noise of My Bloody Valentine and the dense sound collages of hip-hop super group Public Enemy. Their sound is often constructed through sampling and a musical base so uncharacteristic of hip-hop that it makes it difficult for people to classify their sound. But Dälek, the leader and namesake of the group, insists that what they do is “strictly hip-hop”. He described his music to the Chicago Sun-Times, "It's purely hip-hop, in the purest sense. If you listen to what hip-hop has historically been, it was all about digging in different crates and finding different sounds, and finding different influences to create. If Afrika Bambaataa wasn't influenced by Kraftwerk, we wouldn't have 'Planet Rock'. So, in that sense, what we do is strictly hip-hop.”

Absence, their most seminal record, is a beastly, hour-long excursion into a murky hip-hop/post-rock, post apocalyptic, abandoned, urban barren land. Absence takes things far into the darkness. Much of the album is flat-out rude and harsh. It is sheer noise, the kind of stuff that would interest John Zorn, or Mike Patton (oh wait, it already did). The backdrop Oktopus and Still, the other two members of Dälek, create on this album are searing. "Distorted Prose”, the opening track, contains a simple acoustic bass sample, as each line by Dälek is punctuated by feedback and industrial noise, something of an unholy collaboration between Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Einstürzende Neubauten 's Blixa Bargeld.

A similar bass line holds together "Asylum (Permanent Underclass)", but here the drones of noise are more enveloping, much more fearsome. "Culture for Dollars" is opened by loud screeches before a sinister, dissonant melody underscores the vocals. "In Midst of Struggle" reaches dizzying heights of layered distortion that would have made My Bloody Valentine's Bilinda Butcher proud. Throughout the album, monstrous, colossal beats lurch across the soundscape, never wavering. The musical interludes on the album are especially interesting, as "Absence" and "Köner", instrumental tracks, are extremely rare in hip-hop.

Absence is possibly history in the making. Years from now, this level of experimentation and noise may become an emerging pattern in all hip-hop acts. Maybe not, but one can dream. Regardless of anything, Absence is one record that cannot be missed, because it will certainly stand to define a generation someday.

Rivals prepare for Tablet Wars

By Hussain M Elius

Apple's fabled iPad is now on the shelves (in a store not quite near you!). Whether you like controversial but oh-so-sexy Apple products or not is a matter of debate, but the “Oooh! Shiny!” factor hasn't quite worn out just yet, but it's not the only kid in the block when it comes to, the not new but revived, tablet form factor. Some of these tablets are in the various stages from “barely announced” to “working prototype”, many of which were shown off at this years Consumer Electronics Show.

HP Slate
This particular tablet will run on Windows 7 with touch optimised user interface, setting it apart from the iPad running the iPodOS. It will have a slightly smaller screen and five hours of battery life compared to ten on the iPad, but on the plus side, it has a 1.6GHz processor, flash for your Facebook games, USB Port, pen support so you can use it as a digital sketchpad, web cam in the front as well as the back for all your video conferencing needs, and a conventional SIM card tray so you can use our trusty Bangladesh-wide internet on-the-go. Not to mention that it can run all the applications you already run on your desktop. Cost? A cool US$549

enTourage eDGe dualbook
One look at this thing and you can tell something is different. Two screens, combined with a hinge that holds a speaker. It's not just an e-reader and an Android (a Google OS) netbook bolted together either. This truly shows how tablets aren't just for everyday Joes, but more so academia. The concept is great for school. In one hand you can read, while on the other touch screen, you can take notes and annotations. It's available now for around $499.

Microsoft Courier
Yet another dual screen? I think not. Unlike the enTourage eDGe it doesn't have an e-ink display. Also unlike the eDGe it is not only for the academia, but diverges into a more multi-purpose front. With two seven inch multi-touch screens, this Wi-Fi ready device is rumored to be priced around $500 and weighing only a pound. Running on the Windows CE this isn't the jack-of-all-trades that iPad wants to be, but rather wants to be your ultimate and infinite journal. And from the demo videos, one can tell it does what it does remarkably well.

The Neofine WePad has similar form and function of the Apple iPad. It's just bigger, stronger, and cheaper. The choice of OS is a little peculiar: a Linux derivate with Android on top. That's Linux with Linux inside. Take that Intel! It boasts a 11.6 inch screen compared to 9.7 of the iPad, and also a faster processor, a webcam, 2 USB ports, SIM card slot, card reader, and flash support. Unfortunately compared to iPads ten hours battery life, it only has six. Also, although it has been announced to be cheaper than the iPad, it's not up for sale just yet.

Notion Ink Adam
Last, but not least, this Indian company plans to bring forth an Android powered tablet featuring Pixel QI screen. Supporting video at high quality 1080p where iPad sports only 576p, this 10-inch device boasts a 3 mega-pixel camera (on a swivel, no less) and HDMI and USB ports whereas the iPad has none. Its secret weapon is the aforementioned Pixel QI screen which lets you jump from backlit for web browsing, to non-backlit for when you are reading. This, coupled with Tegra 2 power can make the battery life jump from 16 hours to a mind-boggling 160. Unfortunately the screen, the manufacturer and the device are all untested. It's one thing to promise the moon, and another to deliver it.


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