Thursday, May 5, 2016

Live Review - Death Grips - Bottomless Pit

Infinite death

When I reviewed Jenny Death last year, it felt like the end of an era. Since their 2011 mixtape Exmilitary, the group has occupied a deep manic corner of my mind, a potential force that could rear up at any time. Perhaps the greatest manifestation of this was in their releases themselves, music bursting into the public unexpectedly or being cruelly withheld with equally destructive results. And with Jenny Death, it seemed like it was all over... you heard it in the music just as much as in the announcement of their breakup. "On GP" sounds like death itself.

So what is this bizarre afterlife? What is this "Death Grips 2.0"? Is a grave not six feet deep, but rather a bottomless pit? Moreover, what's with this "normal band" release cycle? Setting a release date, giving a lead single, and actually sticking to it? Sure, the surrounding aesthetics and promotions - mysterious videos of the late Karen Black, a phone number you could call to hear a new song - were unconventional, but pretty far removed from, say, jumping off your label with a dickcover, or releasing the second half of a double album over 200 days after the first. It even got leaked like normal, albeit in crappy 128kbps that I was able to ignore.

It makes you start to think maybe that after five years and over ten major releases, the magic behind it is starting to fade. Is a guerrilla army still guerrilla after such a long campaign? If they really were going to drive us all insane, or summon Satan, or commit ritual suicide - as you really believed they would, when you listened to them at their best - wouldn't it have happened already? Isn't there something just inherently self-contradictory about the idea of "Death Grips' fifth album"?

But if they're able to transition into career musicians with relatively sane release cycles and stable daily lives, as hard as it might be to reconcile that with their omnidestructive terroristic style, you have to realize that it was an option borne of their ability to succeed with that image, to sell the quality of that image. That is, it was all because the music is that good. And we have no reason to think the music won't continue to be amazing.

This might seem like a weak justification. You might still be thinking "establishment" or "sellout" or whatever other cliche complaint. You might be thinking it pretty bitterly, given that some of Death Grips' freshness came from their ability to defy the pomo distancing that made those complaints passe in the first place. But if you reconcile all of that, all those feelings, all this internal conflict, and then think of how it must feel for the artists themselves, to be in the epicenter of this mixture of expectation of defiance, and to still return to the studio, isn't that the very image of a bottomless pit? We'll have to dive in and find out.

Death Grips - Bottomless Pit
Live Review

1. Giving Bad People Good Ideas
Woah what the hell? These vocals? I would have guessed this was a fake /mu/ leak LOL. LOL OMG NVM WE IN HERE. this is it. this is the real one. OH MY GOD. the speed. the metal drumming! the yelling! the franticness! this is godlike!!! yes!!!! oh my god! and then the huge crashing breakdown at 0:45, everything disintegrates into the original vocals. this sounds like the very end of some other song but it's the whole thing omg. "It doesn't seem so bad when I see it in my mind"? Oh man the crazy synths at 1:30!! I have no idea what MC Ride is saying lmao i'll have to look at the lyrics. I can tell for sure that Zach Hill has blood all over his drumset already. oh man they have those sharp military snares, I love those. This has all the "rock energy" of Jenny Death but in some crazy "fuck you" laser beam concentrate. I hope the WHOLE ALBUM has this level of relentlessness, that would be amazing. OH MAN, the shifting down of the vocals, I love that, and that sort of "12 year old girl swagger" on the final "ideas" ahhhhhh. **

2. Hot Head
This was the single, I listened to it a lot, it was crazy. I hoped the whole album would be this sort of endless relentless constantly reimposing pit of music, so far it has lived up to my expectations. I like that this lead to a bunch of Baneposting, one of the greatest memes of all time. Again there's this absolutely ROARING guitar that I love, and it's like MC Ride is directing the whole band with his non-articulate voices. maaaaaan. I'm seeing some thematic overlap with the opening track that is VERY INTERESTING. RAW NO FUCKIN FILTER CROOKED NEEDLE HOT HEAD. ohhhhh i think this changed a bit from the single, the bass line is new i think??? the vocal effect on "I just told them HELL'S EXISTENCE" is nuts, i don't typically like that sound but it works so good. the actual message of this song is terrifying. like... ride horrifies some death-minded people by telling them that hell actually exists. is that the revelation he had after the end of jenny death??? :O terrifying. man this song has me "air drumming" like some kid with long hair and a black tshirt with an unreadable word on it. that "woodpecker" sound around like 3:25 is so good. but yeah i think they "filled in" this track a lot over the single version which i have mixed feelings about. i hope they still leave a really raw "hell's existence" OH YEAH THEY DID with just like two bass notes under it, that's actually so sick. **

3. Spikes
OH MAN and right into ANOTHER ONE, this sort of structureless endless pit, ahhhhhh. MC Ride flying a plane~ just like driving a bus!~ oh man these vocal breakdowns, this is crazy, the rhythms, i want an itg stepchart lmao. these weird little melodious patterns, wtf how are they just interjecting this randomly? "I'm on that helter skelter" oh no. SPIKES SPIKES SPIKES SPIKES. "Ends to a means I can't establish", "I can't kill myself twice", this is officially POST DEATH HELL MODE, this is officially crazy. Very good. *

4. Warping
The immediateness of all these tracks is great. "All I do is lose my form, I'm warping" and then omg this little pitch increasing line, i'm being driven up the waaaaaaaall. This feels like a breakdown relative to the previous tracks, giving the greater album an even more confusing structure. "I shit on your guilt trip"??? man that little line that just plays more and more chords further up in pitch, it feels like a direct attack on my sanity. OH THEY'RE DOING A DOUBLE, I can't handle it, i'm losing my form too. and the vocals getting more and more distorted and distant... ahhhhhh. *

5. Eh
hey its the canada meme word. hey it's a crazy synth line what the hell omg ride on this flow. I'M LIKE, EH. "Two letter text, translation: next" lol. this one is absolutely crazy. EH. EH. is this... lady gaga? but gaga cant handle this shit. Did he shout out Piss Christ? Death Grips, also like "eh". This sounds like depression lol. but then the synth line is absolutely nuts this whole time, the contrast OH MAN AND THEN THIS CRAZY STRAINED VOICE, and he's still like EH. this one is REALLY bizarre. "Catch me hanging from my noose like 'eh'." hahaha. *

6. Bubbles Buried In This Jungle
lol what could this title mean. what could this EXTREMELY SINISTER bassline mean? good lord, and this super truncated flow, he's so good at that, no one can do that like mc ride. and oh ho ho ROBOT VOICE my favorite, but it's like decayed beyond that, more robot than robot. "Sandman brought you down to me", every time I catch a lyric it's terrifying LOL. I have no idea what the hell he's talking about, I assume drugs for some reason. Never wants to "let a bitch get used" to him, seems like bad relationship advice lol, but what do i know? Is he saying "respect"? S+

7. Trash
Woahahahahohkay hokay this is really like... WAGNARIAN. these two massive chords. TRASH. "We upload trash, facedown trash". this is pretty cool, I can't think of songs like this... "I get close, all I see is more trash". "Taste of my black bliss", ride going in sort of, not for the glory of going in tho lol. "Trash" is a hella good word, especially in rap, very underused. "Mercury confetti", "I died already, in the liquor store, counting pennies". And these two massive chords, I love that, I hear that more in like... experimental ambient noise stuff lol. Good. *

8. Houdini
hmmm, the famous escape artist? is this again tying into the mystery of how he "died"? "Three four, fuck you baby"? lol what??? "You're disjointed and ruined, baby"??? that's a cool line of what that is. "VCR saliva"??? these can't be right hahaha. I'll just look it up later. "Fuck is that a hair style? This asshole be a pussy turd" LOL PLEASE??? is that actually what it is??? this is amazing though lmao. Oh man the beat shift around 1:40 is really cool, that very slight "expansion" maybe. i wonder what hair style he saw that offended him so much. i think they're really having fun with this album. Crazy crazy. *

9. BB Poison
OH BABY BABY BABY, oh SHIT i really like this sound. this super staticky crunchy sound, OH MAN, I wonder how you produce stuff like this. OH BABY POISON, what does he mean by this? "I'm not surprised, check the thermostat", what bizarre argument are we getting a glimpse of? This real "churning" sort of sound is neat, oh man and these "whipping winds" sort of sounds... ahhh, I don't know how to describe any of this, it's too nutty, I love it all. I want them to go even more abrasive, even more beyond. these little snatches of a super noisy guitar solo, with the ping pong panning hahahaha i love it. OH BABY POISON hahaha. what the hell are any of these songs about? I will have to consider it. Did he say "poltergeist"? is bbpoltergeist a real dg account??? *

10. Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood
hmmmmmm this title. HMMMM this intro, omg. OMG WHAT this effect at 0:20 is WHAT hahaha I love. beyoooooooo plop plop plop. mc ride on his bizarre suburban warzone flow, like pcp-fueled Arcade Fire. "I'm all up in my glory hole, SO rockin it"? hahaha. This one is crazy, THREE BEDROOMS IN A GOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD, something about easy to burn cause they're made of wood, pull the body from a bag she's a cop?? uh oh. Seeing devils... through the telly... "Cyborgs coming, pregnant cannibal", what? what?? so he's... fucking his significant other through a glory hole? i have no idea. any guess is as good as any other. *

11. Ring A Bell
hmmm are these bells? are these hell's bells? OHH that guitar though. and those "blast beats" way in the background (i only have a vague if those are blast beats) AMERICA AMERICA, my death is money omg. I have no idea what he's saying but I love how he's saying it jfc wow. DUDE wow this guitar around a minute in, and then what a breakdown into a super distorted unrecognizable sample, what the hell is going on?? what the hell is going oooon???? And this really bizarre nursery rhyme sort of flow, 420 dollar bill??? Quicksandstorm, DARUDE??? hahaha. This is a really good one. *

12. 80808
oooh spooky. i wonder if this will feature 808 drums? woahahaha wow i really love... a whole lot about this. "Flock of bitches come, I got drums by the bucketful" hahaha. The way he says "fuck with me" is gigantic and amazing. And all these weird synthetic breakdowns, it feels like this could be pulled in any direction any amount. "Move bodies until they can't move" damn man that's some real proclamation to make. hahaha oh man, at 2:45, just when I thought I understood it all, we get yet another big tangent into something unlike anything else. very cool. *

13. Bottomless Pit
woah the electric guitar OH HELL YEAH the electric guitar. this is maybe the only band where i am so excited to hear one. "I hate you I hate you, cool"??? "I fuck you in half" classic mc ride. This is the sort of relentlessness I craved, this sort of guitar-driven continual explosion. "Human flesh reeks", damn well. "I threw my hammer like the day"??? These giant distorted chords, so much going on here... so crazy. There's something that feels triumphant about "I fuck you in half", which shows that we're pretty far gone from anything sane. And that's right where we should be. **

In reality, a bottomless pit would just make you float around the center of the Earth

I think. And although that's a stupid thing to say, I think it fits well with this album. There wasn't a whole lot that felt wholly unprecedented for their sound... Unlike all their other albums, there was nothing that struck me as "oh my god, they've turned a corner, they couldn't have possibly done this on the previous album". There was lots of experimentation, sure, lots of crazy synth sounds and lyrical flows and juxtapositions that I had never heard before, but they were all within the range that I had expected them to experiment, if that makes sense.

The major mode seems to be one of "relentlessness", a sort of structure-defying continual driving energy that saturates the whole album. It isn't an entirely new idea for them, but it works really well when extended... it fits super well thematically, too: it really feels like MC Ride has died, and gone to hell, and is now just falling endlessly through circle after circle. It's thrilling and conceptually bold, but it's also fairly singular, which, if it misses the mark, could suddenly seem like "just" that.

This album reminds me of Painting With, for better or worse... It seems like they aren't as driven to attempt gigantic "masterpiece" type tracks, and instead pursue a variety of ideas in an established mode, bolstered by their core expertise with their sound. The result is one of their most consistent and, as strange as it sounds, accessible albums, but one that lacks as many memorable focal points. The prevailing thought I had while hearing it is that they were having fun with this one. It might sound strange to say about an album that's about death and hell and drugs and poison and other Death Grips stuff, but it really seems like the best motivation remaining: they had nothing to prove, they had no place they needed to go, they were, in a sense, already dead, so... why not just enjoy putting together an album? I certainly enjoyed hearing it.

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