Kieren Gallear aka DELS returns with his second album, Petals Have Fallen, and makes the step up from potential contender to full scale champ. Delivering on the potential he displayed on his first album, GOB, DELS has developed his own unique take on hip hop - intensely personal and poetic but also funny, scuzzy, raw and sonically adventurous. All the elements were there with his first record, but no one could have expected him to display them with such consistency, such delicacy and such supreme confidence. His explanation of the title of the record perfectly sums up Gallear's aesthetic, plus providing a handy definition of what it is to make art: "the urge to protect something precious that will ultimately fall apart."
There's plenty that you could pick out individually from this record. From the sung opening of "Limbo" there are spine-tingling moments galore. The hard rhyming over an epic beat on "Fall Apart". The combination of Kerry Leatham's vocals, Bonobo's beat and DELS' wordplay on "Pulls". The free-rolling exuberance of "Pack of Wolves". The delicacy of "Petals Have Fallen". Plus, of course, re-works of the brilliant "Bird Milk" and "You Live In My Head", both of which were included on the Black Salad EP last year and hammered by Zane Lowe, Annie Mac and Huw Stephens, amongst others.
But just as impressive is the consistent feel of the record as an album, where moods and images and sonics develop and mutate but hold together as a whole. Some of this comes from the deployment of DELS' long-term collaborator, Kwes in the role of Executive Producer and "reducer."Only one of the tracks is produced solely by Kwes, with beats provided by Bonobo, Micachu (fresh from her triumph as the soundtracker for Under the Skin), Blue May, Eli-T and others. But Kwes and DELS took every track back to his studio to provide additional production and an overall feel to the whole album. Throw in guest performances by some of the most exciting singers in the UK today (Kerry Leatham, Rosie Lowe, Tirzah, Bila and Elan Tamara) and you have a palette which has been extended even further. More even than any of that is the leap in DELS' own abilities.