Album review: Death Grips
What's hot and not in your headphones
Explaining Death Grips to the layman is no easy feat. Assaultive, crass and unwavering at first listen, but methodical, calculated and eerily enticing by the end, Death Grips may seem like an impossible contradiction.
That's because Death Grips needs to experienced rather than explained.
Stefan Burnett (MC Ride), Hella drummer Zach Hill, and producer Andy Mortkin (Flatlander) have been making waves in experimental hip hop since the 2011 release of Exmilitary.
Following in the tradition of DIY punk bands, Death Grips off record resembles a middle finger to the system.
Ditched tour dates, a less than cordial departure from their record label, and a penis for an album cover, should give you an indication of the band's attitude. They have no ideals.
However, the brashness should not distort your perception of the music. While the music in itself is incredibly busy, the frantic and frenzied instrumentals eventually even out into one of the most cohesive, dynamic, and original pieces of work distinguishing it from anything available today.
Government Plates represents a departure from their previous albums in that it warps an already warped formula. More heavy synths, more rabid drumming, and more left-field samples may seem familiar at first, however the notable distinction is the absence of the heavy presence of Ride's vocals, or at least his vocal contributions in the traditional sense.
This time around his maniacal rapping is disjointed, looped, and less structured in contrast to the routine fragmented but still fully present verses we've heard in the two previous LP's.
This means that the beats are allowed to take centre stage, with Ride's vocals accentuating the feel of the record.
In fact, the only two tracks that are reminiscent of their previous work are the opener and Anne Bonny. The rest are lush avant-garde instrumentals of the weird and demented with Ride's vocals looped or constantly reiterated to pound in meaning and feeling.
Particularly with tracks like Big House, where Ride seems to be either echoing 'LA creeping under my skin' or when distorted 'LA creeping under my scales' sinisterly leaves you feeling violated. The sparse vocals allow Flatlander's production work in particular to push the music to its boundaries and Hill's drumming sounds more unorthodox than ever.
The whole album plays like a trip into an asylum on acid.
Tracks like 'Birds', 'Big House', 'Overflow', and 'Whatever I Want (F*** Who's Watching)', are genre benders and defy not only the concept of an experimental hip-hop instrumental but also the ideas of noise and industrial sound.
Amalgamating all these elements easily created one of the year's most unique and exceptional, if not peculiar, records. Giving Death Grips the time of day will open your mind to a listening experience unlike any other, one that through chaos and havoc can bring about serenity, which in itself, is incredibly enthralling.
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