Death Grips | The Powers That B (Harvest)

cd death-gripsEach track delves into different topics like race, sex, and drugs, but twists them in such a cynical and demented way.



 Back in mid-2014, the elusively illustrious Death Grips, known for their cryptic and esoteric records, out of the blue released the first half to what would become a double album. Niggas on the Moon was available for free, posted on YouTube, and fans went crazy. Along with the drop, we learned the double album would be entitled The Powers that B. Soon after, the band took to Facebook to announce the decision of “ending” the collaboration, but assuring fans they’d receive the second half of TPTB, Jenny Death, later in the year. Fast forward to December 2014 and we’re given the first single of the anxiously awaited part two, “Inanimate Sensations.” “JENNY DEATH WHEN???” became the acclimation DG fans rallied behind as they awaited the announcement of a release date for the other half of The Powers that B. Finally, at the end of March, we received the complete package and could fully enjoy the double album as a finished composition.

The first half, Niggas on the Moon, features all band members: MC Ride on vocals, Zach Hill on V-drums, and Andy Morin producing, with the addition of Björk samples. Controversy surrounded the Björk samples, but since release, they have been confirmed by linear notes. The album has a more electronic feel compared to the second half; practically any sound has a sense of improvisation since Hill is in control of it all. Distorted trips, skips, breaks, swells, bumps, and drops, including the manipulation of the samples, are all in control by Hill, with production editing from Morin. Surprisingly, even with the synthetic edition of percussion on this half, Hill still manages to slip in mistakes here and there, if you’re listening closely. Each song flows into the next; unless you’re paying attention to the track time, you’re really left unknowing where one begins and ends. Some of the ways the songs end can even trick you: It’s crazy. Each track delves into different topics like race, sex, and drugs, but twists them in such a cynical and demented way. Ride’s lyrics are as deep and as cryptic as ever, sometimes leaving a more personal vibe than any other DG release. The impact has created a desire to decipher the words, at least for me.

The second half of this release doesn’t stray away from the first disc, but instead builds off the momentum it set, adding more punk and industrial elements into the mix. They do away with only synthetic drums, with the Björk vocals introducing a multitude of other instruments, including synths, bass, guitars, mellotron, and even an organ. This half still features the original members, and introduces new contributors Julian Imsdahl from Hella (of which Hill is also a member) and Nick Reinhart from Tera Melos. The album keeps its electronic feel, but subtly, as the guitars and drums take the front. Ride’s vocals range from some of the loudest screams to the quietest whispers, and all in-between: There isn’t a range he isn’t willing to go to. The use of more traditional rock/punk instruments lead to reminiscing about the early days of Exmilitary, Death Grips’ first release. Track development and concept focus around the ideas of synthetic sensation and how technology is taking over. Guitars and drums are as sporadic and hook-ish, as they create an environment that you can definitely bang your head to. As the songs progress, every track gets more and more distorted in different ways, leading up to the crescendo known as “Death Grips 2.0.” Oddly enough, the track isn’t featured on the vinyl release—maybe because of space issues on the LP itself, but who knows.

Overall, this is a cocky double album that creates more of a cryptic sense than anything Death Grips has ever released; it truly lives up to the hype. The lyrics are deep with meaning, layered on top of dizzyingly hard-to-handle instrumentation. Death Grips keeps going deeper and deeper into the pit of madness, making it harder and harder for fans to gain an understanding of what this entity of musical experimentation has become. Their inaccessibility makes them all the more interesting to get into, so if you’re willing to jump into the empty 10-foot-deep pool known as Death Grips, now’s the time to do it. A- | Marcus Mercer

Since the release of this double album, Death Grips have announced a world tour and released dates on the North America leg. This announcement leads to the assumption that the band hasn’t really broken up. Tour dates can be found below (expect to see me at the Denver date!).

06.19 | The Showbox, Seattle
06.20 | Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, BC
06.21 | Roseland Theater, Portland
06.23 | The Complex, Salt Lake City
06.24 | Ogden Theatre, Denver
06.26 | Granada Theater, Lawrence, KS
06.27 | First Avenue, Minneapolis
06.28 | Majestic Theatre, Madison, WI
06.30 | Metro, Chicago
07.01 | St. Andrews Hall, Detroit
07.03 | Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
07.04 | Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre, Montreal
07.05 | Paradise Rock Club, Boston
07.07 | Webster Hall, New York
07.10 | Union Transfer, Philadelphia
07.11 | 9:30 Club, Washington DC
07.12 | The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC
07.14 | The Masquerade – Heaven Stage, Atlanta
07.15 | One Eyed Jacks, New Orleans
07.17 | Fitzgerald’s, Houston
07.18 | Mohawk, Austin
07.19 | Trees, Dallas
07.21 | Sunshine Theater, Albuquerque
07.22 | Rialto Theatre, Tucson
07.23 | Marquee Theatre, Tempe
07.25 | The Fillmore, San Francisco 

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