Friday, 27 April 2012

Death Grips - The Money Store

Death Grips first release came swaddled in samples. Entire songs were based around them and they formed the basis for some of the best moments on that abrasive, thrilling album. Though their use often lead to moments of terrific invention it also starved the band themselves of a real identity. The Money Store is decidedly the antithesis of this.

Though seemingly less outwardly aggressive than its predecessor, further listening reveals this simply to be the product of less emphasis being placed on loud-quiet-meltdown dynamics and more being placed on layers upon layers of sound. Here the samples are less obvious and recognisable, mainly stemming from field recordings made by the band members and as such, the whole thing has a more natural tone to it. By no means is it less dense or intricate, Zach Hill’s drumming is stepped to a whole new level here, eschewing the subtlety he applied to Exmilitary in favour of a return to his usual batshit energy (the percussion of the opening six tracks flows together perfectly, seemingly detached from the music around it).

But there lies The Money Store’s secret weapon: it has a definite sound. Each track carries common threads and relatable elements; the drums will sound like the arrival of the apocalypse but will be placed deep in the mix, the prominent instruments will sound totally blown out and crappy, the synths and riffs will sound crystal and Stefan Burnett’s vocals will refuse to relinquish their grip on everything around them. The vocals here deserve mentioning for their sheer energy alone. Never before has a vocalist sounded so totally committed and involved, let alone on a hip-hop album. Prime examples of this golden formula are 'The Fever (Aye Aye)' and 'Hustle Bones', both of which could work in both a club and a ritual sacrifice.

Tellingly, they close with 'Hacker', easily their most ambitious and accomplished track to date. The disco groove, stuttering synths and distant electronic drum fills all call to mind vintage LCD Soundsystem but fed through a faulty loudspeaker. The schizo structure is, oddly enough, the most straightforward on the whole album and the track’s gradual build proves that Death Grips really are capable of restraint.

A massive step forward, a mission statement or a giant fuck-you, however you choose to read The Money Store, one fact is unavoidable: as long as this lot are around, no one’s safe.


Ned Powley

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