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Death Grips Lives On

| Thursday, January 15, 2015

Death Grips WEBMary McGraw | The Observer
Stephan Burnett and Zach Hill had been trailblazing the brave genre of experimental hip-hop since their formation of Death Grips in 2010. In the past four years, they have gained notoriety for their bold musical statements. On recordings, the rhythmically complex accompaniments they develop feature intricately woven use of drums, various synthetic percussion sounds, and unconventional samples. They also maintain the innocence of the word “beat,” rarely straying into popular hip-hop toolkits of bass-anchored songs, hooks or anything besides the use of drums, various synthetic percussion sounds and unconventional samples. A song released on their 2013 album “Government Plates” entitled “Birds” does in fact feature a (somewhat uncomfortable) bass accompaniment, an accompaniment which was attributed to Robert Pattinson (of “Twilight” fame) on the back cover. In their lyricism, they employ highly explicit and quite aggressive motifs in the realms of sex and violence, while keeping true to the ideals of self-validation, blame-seeking anger and hedonism.

The reason for utilizing the past perfect above being that on July 2, 2014, Death Grips uploaded their breakup announcement to their Facebook page in the form of a picture of a note written on a napkin. This announcement came nearly a month after the release of their double-album “The Powers That B,” the first disc entitled “N****s on the Moon,” which features extraordinarily eerie chopped vocal samples of Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk on all eight tracks. The note detailed that the full album would be delivered later in 2014 via the band’s own Third Worlds Records, through which the group has been releasing music after being dropped by Epic Records for releasing their album on their website and through several file-sharing services and releasing private emails on their Facebook page. On Oct. 10 of last year, Death Grips released the album artwork for “The Powers That B,” along with the announcement that the album was finished. The second half of the double-album is called “Jenny Death” and has not yet been released.

“Inanimate Sensation,” a single off “Jenny Death” was released Dec. 9 along with its music video on YouTube. The song features much stronger rhythmic singularity and forward thrust than any of the group’s work to date, while still retaining all of the energy and vocal intensity of their previous albums. The song features an extended ensnaring hook, which pulls the listener down a humming, accelerating NASCAR track that ends at a banner extending a warm “welcome to hell.” It is clear on this track that Death Grips has lost no innovative passion or motivation for sonic perfection in their breakup — they continue to impress even from the grave.

And on Jan. 4, the band released a 14-track instrumental soundtrack entitled “Fashion Week.” An interesting art in and of itself, the soundtrack has also been taken (by this writer, at least) as a clue as to the release date of “Jenny Death,” which still remains officially unannounced. The songs on the album are uniformly named “Runway J”, “Runway E”, “Runway N”, etc., and concatenating the last letters of each song delivers the phrase “JENNY DEATH WHEN.” This allusion to the album suggests the impending release of “Jenny Death,” possibly at the beginning of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York, which starts Feb. 12. And although the band (which has traditionally shirked interviews and publicly encouraged commentary on their music and methods) has not confirmed or denied any hypothesized release dates, several music vendors list the release date for the physical CD to be Feb. 10, the Saturday before Fashion Week starts.

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About Thom Behrens

Thom is working to get a degree in Computer Engineering and, if he can pull it off, will graduate in 2016. In his free time, Thom likes to rip on Pitchfork, read books and hang out with Jay Michuda. Thom enjoys the chipotle alfredo sauce from the dining hall and is proud to represent the Dirty South Bend on campus.

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