Death Grips at Whelan’s (Review)
Death Grips at Whelan’s, Dublin on April 29th, 2013
When your band has been described as “just-got-out-of-jail crazy” and your music as having been “made in the basement of a serial killer,” dropping your label by leaking your new album is no big thing. Hip-hop enthusiasts had fun last year throwing around neo-generic definitions in light of Californian duo Death Grips‘ two releases, ‘The Money Store’ in April and ‘No Love Deep Web’ in October. Pre-apocalyptic post-angry hobocore thrash/industrial/hip-hop commissionaires, MC Ride (Stefan Burnett) and Zach Hill have a penchant for the transgressive; primal is the keyword. All three albums have been challenging – asking around, the thing that keeps most listeners at arms’ length is precisely that which is the major success of ‘No Love Deep Web.’ Possibly the major triumph of the previous two releases (debut mixtape/musical manifesto ‘Exmilitary’ broke ground in Spring 2011) was to highlight just how articulate the Death Grips sound has become.
The show was built around the two penned albums; opening with spas-melodic ‘The Fever (Aye Aye),’ two more from ‘The Money Store’, and then into ‘No Love Deep Web’ material with ‘Lil Boy’ and ‘Come up and get me,’ which features some of Ride’s most signifying and imagist free-verse workings. “My stone wall it’s on dog gaze duct taped to the ceiling / stucco cave make me illi okay okay feel me.” The stop-start percussive vocals were counterpart to a seamless conversation between drum machine and bassline. Gone are the guerrilla, commando overtones of Exmilitary in favour of something just as sonically ballistic: something refined yet distasteful, ugly and somehow elegant; polished crudities. To waste no time in defending its crass prerogatives, ‘No Love’ is the only song which, as yet, has had the ability to stand up to the band’s strongest work, ‘Beware’ from ‘Exmilitary.’ Hill’s weighty synthetics on the night reflected the nature of the band’s presence; there was a progression of ambience rather than a fevered paroxysm of noise. The result was a glitch-head’s wet dream, masterfully regulated by Ride’s narrow range of emphatic tone; we’ve got everything from apathetic spite to wrathful kamikaze here.
Although beat-driven, No Love Deep Web (which in order to be written called for the cancellation of last year’s tour) lyrically fits as a necessarily urban/modern existentialist’s most aggressive and climactic ruminations. Compared to The Money Store, however, even for the avid fan there is something amiss. The overbearing energy that made the first two releases so singular is still there, albeit minus some socially furious gall. The lyrics have reneged on some of the celestial and sublime beauty that were discerned through the fuzz of the previous releases. This would be fine if it were an aesthetic choice. I have a feeling, however, that the sublime imagery was still being reached for, but we lost out in favour of something that is more unconsciously ambient and emotion-driven.
Washed in psychotic vocals and frenzied beats, the die-hards (die-hardcore!?) of the front row (a dynamic front row that reached the bar) enjoyed almost exactly one hour of primordial goodness. Where songs are purely ideas that are represented differently on a purely circumstancial basis, where the split second between songs is not a chance to talk nonsense but a chance to take a breath. Stay noided.
Review by Luke Etherton