Death Grips: Fashion Week
Alternative & IndieR&B & Hip-Hop...
If ever there were a group worthy of research and study, one could make a good case for the Sacramento-based hip-hop phenomenon that is Death Grips. Mysterious, subversive and straight up confusing are some of the words used to describe this trio and their enigmatic, animalistic front man, MC Ride. Despite an apparent break-up and the subsequent cancellation of their run of dates opening for Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, Death Grips have apparently still been creatively active and the sudden unannounced release of their instrumental album Fashion Week – which you can download for free from their official website – is a testament to that fact.
The most immediate characteristic that will jump out to anyone familiar with their back catalogue is the absence of MC Ride, aka Stefan Burnett’s barked, violent vocals. This may make the album slightly more accessible than previous releases like Exmilitary, The Money Store, and No Love Deep Web, but this is a double edged sword. Although it allows the production of former Hella drummer, Zach Hill, and Andy Morin, aka Flatlander, more space to breath, one can’t help but feel that some of Ride’s patented form of vocal violence wouldn’t go amiss on tracks like the first ‘Runway N’ (yes, there are three tracks called ‘Runway N’), where some of the unique production is a little too repetitive.
However, the swirling electronic mess of tracks that is ‘Runway’s D,E,A,T, and H’ flows together beautifully, culminating the melodic, siren-like synth line of ‘Runway H’ in what may be one of the best five-track runs you’ll hear.
That isn’t to say that Death Grips’ in-your-face aggression isn’t present; tracks like the first ‘Runway E’ showcase the cacophonous and thumping drumming style that has made Zach Hill a mainstay on the modern noise rock scene. So, the brutality is there, but in a sparser, more metered fashion. The removal of Ride’s vocals allows the group to experiment more with electronic melodies, textures, and sounds. It’s something of an experiment, the results of which show a more mature, varied and accessible sound, whilst still retaining that patented Death Grips style.
One can’t help but feel that this is an album with a purpose beyond just being another Death Grips album. Rumours are flying around, suggesting that this is the promised soundtrack for Zach Hill’s planned directorial film debut, whereas others believe that this release is, in fact, meant to be a soundtrack for a runway show at New York Fashion Week in February. The real purpose remains a mystery and, as is par for the course with Death Grips, we probably won’t know until it happens.
Probably the most unique release in Death Grip’s catalogue to date, it is also the most mysterious, the strangest and in some ways, the most evolved. Although sacrificing Ride’s vocals may seem like sacrilege to some of the more boneheaded of Death Grips’ fanbase, this album shows that the genius of the group lies not only within the vocal delivery, but also the production. A couple of overly long tracks are the only blemishes on what is otherwise one of the cleverest, most exciting and most terrifying releases in a long time.