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Arts in Review

Death Grips’ new album is a bottomless pit of experimental excellence

“Death Grips is always difficult to listen to. With each new album, despite sounding the same on a superficial level of grating noise and barely-danceable, frenetic rhythms, they manage to show a new side of themselves. The newest album, however, doesn’t show a new side of Death Grips so much as it puts all the things they excel at into one tight package. Bottomless Pit sees Death Grips, once and for all, in total control of their chaos.”

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By Alex Rake (The Cascade) – Email

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Death Grips is always difficult to listen to. With each new album, despite sounding the same on a superficial level of grating noise and barely-danceable, frenetic rhythms, they manage to show a new side of themselves. The newest album, however, doesn’t show a new side of Death Grips so much as it puts all the things they excel at into one tight package. Bottomless Pit sees Death Grips, once and for all, in total control of their chaos.

Rather than bark beside an avalanche of noise as per usual, vocalist MC Ride dances with the chaos. In fact, he almost commands it. In “Hot Head,” for example, the beat fires off rhythms like a malfunctioning machine gun stuttering a spray of bullets, and it never feels like he’s lost in it because he is, finally, a part of it. As he belts out nonsense like “blo blo blo blo blo,” it feels as if he’s directing the chaotic beat like a traffic conductor rather than like he’s yelling over a track, as it often feels in other Death Grips records.

But yelling or rapping or doing any old thing over a track is not what Death Grips is about. They are most often classified as a hip-hop act because of their hypnotic beats and their spoken vocals, and other times as an electronic act due to the heavy use of electronic sounds and effects, but neither of these genres sums up the Death Grips sound properly, and especially not on this record. For example, the track “Bottomless Pit,” with its propulsive, distorted electric guitar and driving beat, is nothing more than a punk rock song. What’s a punk song doing on a hip-hop record? Nothing: it’s not a hip-hop record.

Death Grips is above all an experimental act, not because they sound weird but because record after record they attempt something new. Sometimes this experiment is more silly than serious, such as the first half of The Powers That B, in which all the beats are composed from the same Bjork sample. Other times, the experiment is with song structure; despite the way the music sounds on paper — ear-bleedingly loud, nonsensical, non-melodic — The Money Store is full of what can only be described as well-constructed pop songs. The experiment particular to Bottomless Pit is more difficult to identify, but it’s impossible not to notice the way it stands out against the rest of their discography as their messiest, most controlled record yet.

If you’ve never heard Death Grips before, this is not the place to start. While Bottomless Pit will amaze anyone familiar with the rest of their work, newbies are bound to hear a contextless pile of noises — unless that very description piques your interest. As MC Ride himself asks in “Houdini”: “Fuck is that, a hairstyle?” Either way, Death Grips has finally collected all their best qualities — their embrace of noise and chaos, their defiance of genre, and their dedication to experimentation — and condensed them into one satiating, inedible album.

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