What would hip-hop be without gangsta posturing, soft-porn sexuality and hooks lifted in their entirety from '70s hits? Well, it could be as exciting as Dalek, which performed a short but explosive set Friday night at the Black Cat. The Newark trio used hip-hop's original raw materials -- turntables, electronics and a commanding voice -- to make music that was fresh, powerful and aggressively unpredictable.
Dalek's latest album, "From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots," employs live musicians, but its Black Cat show demonstrated that the threesome can make a room-swallowing din without any assistance. The group's rapper, also known as Dalek, gripped the microphone, eyes often shut, and leaned toward the audience as he declaimed the lyrics to "Speak Volumes," an angry elegy for hip-hop's lost relevance. His cohorts, turntablist Still and synthesist Oktopus, produced waves of noise that sounded more like Penderecki than P. Diddy.
The manipulation of records on a turntable is often hailed as an art form, yet it's one that quickly became rote for most DJs. But Still boldly broke the rules, summoning tones less from records than from the turntable's tone arm, shaking it and blowing on it to create oscillating drones. Such gambits were typical of the trio, which gave its purely electronic music a Sensurround physicality. When Dalek ended the set by slamming his mike against a monitor to create a paroxysm of feedback, it was a fitting close to a performance that immersed its audience in glorious cacophony.
-- Mark Jenkins