Already something of a leftfield figure in the British rap scene ahead of his 2011 debut LP Gob, Ipswich artist Dels has here furthered his reputation as a maverick voice amongst a crowd of sound-alike MCs with an EP that’s much more than a simple stopgap release.
Born Kieren Dickens in the mid-80s, Dels has returned to familiar production faces for guidance on Black Salad. Kwes, behind half of Gob’s dozen tracks, is responsible for Bird Milk – a track that first surfaced in a slightly different incarnation on the Londoner’s Micachu collaboration, the Kwesachu Mixtape Vol. 2.
Squelching and punchy, all rubbery bass and piercing drum pads, and with a contrasting female co-vocal from Bila, Bird Milk is an insistent earworm that nevertheless complements Dels’ more introspective output.
Of similar digital swagger is Not Today, produced by Micachu & The Shapes keyboardist Raisa Khan – it pops and pulses, sizzling with circuitry, gnawing at earholes like K-9 after a weekend left foraging for itself.
At all times, Dels is a compelling master of ceremonies. The way he’s both laidback and urgent, simultaneously, has been commented on in the past; but this masterfully managed balance is forever at the fulcrum of his delivery.
He’s not the most technically gifted rapper out there, but his imagery is specked with genius. One inspired couplet from Bird Milk goes: “Some say I’m just anxious / I just think I need to eat cheese less.”
Two instrumentals, the title track and Sell By Date, precede this EP’s most striking cut. You Live In My Head is an achingly gorgeous closer, the perfect credits-rolling comedown after a series of sprightlier songs.
In plaintive tones Dels explores isolation through the medium of the love song: “Will I see you again? I had a right laugh, there’s no need to pretend… That you live in my head.” A simple, two-note piano motif carries the track, yearningly, to its conclusion.
Dels’ second LP is due in early 2013. If it’s of a comparable quality to these EP cuts, fans old and new are in for a treat.
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