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The seed of SUMAC was planted somewhere around the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011, sown upon the smoldering ashes of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner’s former band ISIS. Turner had seen his prior project reach full fruition over the span of thirteen years, and it had reached the end of its lifecycle. ISIS had come to define an entire genre of architecturally meticulous and sonically nuanced metal, but at some point all the corners had been mapped, all the fortifications constructed. There was nothing left to build. Turner continued his musical path contributing to the deconstructed panoramic soundscapes of Mamiffer, the misanthropic crowd-baiting sludge of Old Man Gloom, the exploratory electrical whirr of House Of Low Culture, and a slew of studio projects running the gamut from slow-crawling minimalist pop (Jodis), to fiery d-beat punk (Split Cranium). In the midst of all these endeavors however, Turner tended to another venture, one that germinated slowly, its DNA already charted but its flesh still to develop.
SUMAC finally began to bloom in 2012 when Turner caught a set by Vancouver’s raging crust band Baptists. Drummer Nick Yacyshyn stormed through the songs, supplementing the band’s blitzkrieg energy with dexterous idiosyncratic fills and modulating drum patterns. Turner realized the rhythmic underpinning had been found, and shortly thereafter made contact with Yacyshyn. With this duo now comprising the core of SUMAC, the band developed quickly. Their debut album sprouted from a set of carefully composed guitar demos, a string of intensive days holed up in the forests of Vashon Island for writing and rehearsals, and a quick recording session booked while the songs were still growing. Turner recruited Brian Cook (Russian Circles, These Arms Are Snakes, Botch) to fill in on bass duties, hammering out the low-end lurch and cementing the foundation to the songs. The Deal was born.
With SUMAC, noting the members’ prior accomplishments isn’t an indirect excuse for The Deal’s existence; it’s a road map through the briar of their jagged labyrinthine compositions. Across the span of the album’s six songs, SUMAC takes multiple turns through unexpected territories: textural hums, math-metal, harsh noise, Caspar Brötzmann-inspired free-jazz. But all roads lead to a destination that epitomizes the members’ passionate dedication to heavy multi-deminsional music—bludgeoning riffs, tension-building structures, disorienting seismic shifts in tone, timbre, and tempo. If there was a simple way to summarize The Deal, it’s that it’s an incredibly smart and emotionally sophisticated record, which may initially appear as a single minded brutish assault. SUMAC is not suited for cursory listening.
With Dälek, the flow has often been usurped by scorched textures, the product of synthetic decay, themes flitting from pungent political rage through to outright Dionysian frenzy. On Endangered Philosophies, the lyrics are more focused and at the forefront than ever before, and MC Dälek’s new experiments with rhyme styles and flow makes for a vital concoction. There’s no doubt about it, Endangered Philosophies is a work of guttural catharsis, it is a call to arms…
Within the context of the current political landscape, the title Endangered Philosophies certainly brings to mind pertinent issues of moment, notably the rampant rise of anti-intellectualism, as well as the all too rapid erosion of genuinely progressive values in the face of fearful reactionary forces. In MC Dälek’s own words…“Endangered Philosophies is a very introspective record about very external forces. This isn’t about one listen… it’s about your evolving perception when you immerse yourself in the layers of sound and words. Endangered Philosophies is a record about the RIGHT NOW and yet will resonate differently each time it is listened to, in a word….timeless.” (Rolling Stone)
Dälek have been prone to outbursts of pummeling extremity, yet their sound is anything but one dimensional; with viscous dark-ambient soundscapes congealing atop their incessant beats, a dual focus on brute force and disembodied unease. And still, Dälek continue to evolve, as Endangered Philosophies takes a new approach to source material, this time making use of material sent to them by people they have friendships and relationships with including Toronto based Metz, manipulating and sampling in the same way they would use record samples.
Although the group have evolved their sound over the years, they continue to collaborate with the same behind the scenes crew who’ve been with them from the beginning, from the production team, to the artist behind the cover art (Paul Romano). Endangered Philosophies captures so many elements of past Dälek but in a new way, easily matching any of their earlier output in terms of sheer unbridled intensity.
At this stage in their career they have elevated to a frankly peerless stature; with next year marking 20 years since the release of their pivotal debut album Negro Necro Nekros, and having previously collaborated with a host of like-minded visionaries; ranging from Krautrock legends Faust, through to the 90s electronic act Techno Animal – a similarly restless project comprised of Kevin Martin (The Bug, King Midas Sound) and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu). Fans will be thrilled – but not too surprised – to discover that with Endangered Philosophies, the group once again charge forward, continuing to resist stagnation in all of its forms.