platters (2007-11)

Death of a Theme

Sonic explorations of hip-hop superheroes, guitar symphonies and raging hormones

Dälek

For almost a decade, MC Dälek and his cohort Oktopus have been waging a convincing, albeit relatively unnoticed, war on the rap establishment. Abandoned Language is their fourth full-length effort, and while it's taken a bleaker, almost ambient turn from their once supercharged, guitar-heavy sound, it still finds the group poised in direct opposition to just about every aspect of today's commercial hip hop.

There are no catchy club anthems here; no repetitive self promotion, no anonymous female moaning, and not even a trace of P-I-M-P-ing. Instead, Abandoned Language comes on like a broadcast from a Bladerunner ghetto, with ominous sirens, horns and strings swirling around the beats of guest DJ Rob Swift--creating an icy atmosphere more reminiscent of albums by Boards of Canada or Godspeed You Black Emperor. The mix strategically drowns out the vocals at times, but when Dälek's rhymes rise above the ruckus--like on the incredible, ten-minute title track--he aims high. I read your big history text, it never mentioned/ A solitary second of my people's true intentions . Social commentary? This will never sell.

Explosions in the Sky

The album plays out like a film score, but since we have no actual film, we can only rely on the visualizations that arise in the progression; we can only open our hearts to what these guitars and drums--through the language of speed, key and volume--may be meditating upon.

Although the album starts out growling and ominous in "The Birth and Death of the Day," a slow, steady drumbeat, reminiscent of a heartbeat, emerges from the doom, timid yet willing its own existence, conveying a sense of hope for life itself as the guitars rise to towering heights.

There are many meditative moments, dissonant and unsettling notes that seem to venture into the dark labyrinths of the human soul and earthly dread. But above all, the tone always rises out of the shadows, voicing nothing if not a hope for transcendence of the soul. Guitars consistently rise to great heights--exalted, glorious, triumphant.

This score could accompany a film about human fear and courage. It could accompany a narrative about the cry within each human soul, the desire to exist--not just to exist , but to connect in an epic and utterly stunning chorus of glory. But Explosions need not accompany any narrative, because these songs reach far beyond the physical, into a realm of pure, undiluted emotion.

The Trucks

The song "March 1st" focuses on the ephemeral qualities of love. With a drumline in the background, the song asks why even the most powerful feelings of love and togetherness can turn into bitterness and, eventually, depression. The things that should be easiest, according to The Trucks, are usually the most difficult, which of course isn't anything new. You need some lessons on how to get me off , they sing. The Trucks aren't exploring new ideas with this diatribe, they're beating the snot out of old ones. Maybe that's why it's fun.