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Death Grips - No Love Deep Web

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Artist: Death Grips

Album: No Love Deep Web

Label: Third Worlds

Review date: Nov. 16, 2012

Epic Records officially dropped Death Grips on Nov. 1, after a month of speculation: Had the act leaked No Love Deep Web as a sanctioned stunt, or did it point to a deeper rift?

Deeper probably isn’t the word, as it’s been hard to figure out what’s going on beneath the surface with Death Grips from day one, when YouTube videos emerged with the scruffy and not-so-young MC Ride shouting like invisible scorpions were crawling all over his body. Subsequent tracks sampled familiar riffs from the peak-guitar era, forcing rock through percussive shredders. Ride seemed ever more unhinged, but the beats had a knowing wit. By the time Epic picked them up, "I’ve Seen Footage" was using pop chords and offering a strangely sympathetic vision of media overload. Just as they were looking like the rare hardcore eccentrics who’d dent the mainstream and maintain an underground profile, they canceled a tour. The story was Ride, drummer Zach Hill and producer Andy Morin were compelled to create a follow-up album immediately; it’s not clear who was doing the compelling. Things are a little clearer now. The jacket art for No Love Deep Web is a backlit wang. No commercial release is forthcoming. The trio moved into some sort of auto-destruct mode.

So, it appears that Death Grips really were trying to dick over their employers, probably at the last minute. Meanwhile, their hardcore/rap/bass continues to evolve on No Love Deep Web. While the tone has reverted to hissing rats, samples are still absent, as though they were gonna try to make it through a copyright audit. Ride has honed in on a traditional rap flow in places — "Stockton" has a thuggish lope that’s more killa bee than he’s ever been. On the other hand, a refrain like "There was an artificial death in the west, east, pyramids on deck shine," which he chants soberly over simple synths, is art punk poetry-baiting. The more we have to go on, the more Death Grips is shaping up as extremo genre orgy, the type Mike Patton orchestrates.

With the mists lifting, Death Grips as Ipacac stylers makes sense. It also drains off some of their anti-charm. With music that never stops going over the edge, it’s always hard to distinguish between disturbed creeps and larger-hearted assholes. There’s nothing good-natured about Odd Future, but there’s something about youth that lets them get away with it. It’s harder to give Death Grips a break.

And yet, tracks like "No Love" and "Hunger Games" are hard to dismiss. The bass is cold. Ride’s lyrics reach ever deeper lows of WTF. The production by Hill and Morin lets him hang dry, with little more than Batman onomatopoeia behind him, but those crashes are curated and sharpened to maximum effect. When they can handle the pressure, Death Grips still causes visions, but perhaps we ought to lower our doses.

By Ben Donnelly

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