January 02, 2014

Death Grips - Government Plates (2013)

Sacramento experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips seem to operate largely on elements of spontaneity and surprise, as seen in their sudden release of previous album No Love Deep Web and their complete failure to show up to a recent concert at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago.

Released November 13, 2013

The spontaneity of Death Grips was yet again displayed on the 13th of November as they released their new album Government Plates (with accompanying video clips) over the internet without any prior warning aside from the release of single 'Birds' shortly beforehand. Death Grips immediately remind us of their relentless and confronting nature through the breaking of glass and ensuing aural assault of the opening track, bearing the ridiculously long-winded title 'You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it's your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat'. The following 36 minutes offer an abstract amalgamation of industrial and often electro sounding production, the frantic drumming style of Zach Hill and MC Ride’s unorthodox brand of aggressive rapping (rhythmic yelling is perhaps a better descriptor of his vocal style on certain tracks). The result is a markedly unique and hard to pin down album, being the furthest Death Grips have distanced themselves from traditional hip-hop stylings.

As Government Plates makes a far more sparing use of vocalist MC Ride, it is disappointing that Flatlander’s production and Zach Hill’s drumming fail to operate in a more complex and structurally interesting manner in order to compensate for the heavily instrumental focus. Most of the tracks on this album instead appear as unrealized musical ideas that are often centered around a particularly predictable template. This template being: repetitive instrumentals built around electro stylings and vocal samples in a vaguely retro-futuristic manner over competent drumming by Zach Hill. This formula is then topped off with the use of repeated abstract mantras from MC Ride. The in-your-face style of most of these tracks also presents a certain illusion of depth that may detract from the replay value of Government Plates. Despite these flaws, a few excellent tracks stand out above the rest: the opening track (You might think he loves you…), 'Anne Bonny' and in particular 'Birds', which utilises echoed vocals and a sampled guitar line that create a psychedelic effect unexpected by a group such as Death Grips.

Though still an above average and enjoyable album, when looking back at the trio’s previous releases, it is obvious that Government Plates is the least clear in visceral and emotional effect along with being their least musically engaging. Though I’m sure it will act as a gateway for diehard fans of electro and even industrial music, Death Grips fans will hope for a more substantive and engaging release next time around.

Government Plates can be heard in full here:

Released as a free (legal) download on their website http://thirdworlds.net/

  1. You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it's your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat
  2. Anne Bonny
  3. Two Heavens
  4. This is Violence Now (Dont get me wrong)
  5. Birds
  6. Feels like a wheel
  7. Im Overflow
  8. Big House
  9. Government Plates
  10. Bootleg (Dont need your help)
  11. Whatever I want (Fuck who's watching)

Text: El Camino

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