The most avant-garde of avant-garde rap groups has leaked yet another album: Bottomless Pit. And it’s exactly what you’d expect. It’s so good it’s bad. It’s so bad it’s good. And it’s self-aware. We’ve reached peak irony, and I for one love it.
The band is hard to pin down stylistically. Clearer influences are dishwashers and industrial motors. If one listens carefully, they may discern MC Ride rapping, gibberish-ing, and occasionally screaming incoherently. Flatlander, sometimes known as “Andrew,” produces, and is possibly having a seizure at the mixing board (someone should check on him). Zac Hill puts down drum tracks that sound like Questlove on crack – you might know him from Hella, or a one-off with Weiss and Cameron (you know, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) featuring nothing but drums, appropriately titled ‘Drumgasm’.
The band is erratic. This is their first effort after their pledged breakup. “We are now at our best and so Death Grips is over.” “Plz give us more,” cried the internet. “You’re right, we might do another,” said the band. Being a Death Grips fan involves grueling masochism; the cancelled shows, their evasive nature (having done, to my knowledge, only one interview – with Pitchfork, a few years back), and the constant push to inaccessibility with every new album.
MC Ride’s characteristic aggression is worthy of special notice. “I don’t care about real life” is the hook from the first song off Jenny Death – titled ‘I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States,’ delivered with Ride’s trademark insanity. Like, really? Incoherent screaming and pledges that “You’re fit to learn the meaning of a beat down” (‘No Love’ off NO LOVE DEEP WEB) grace his performance. Ride’s artistic touch has left every Death Grips album to date littered with primal violence. “IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES / GUILLOTINE!”
And yet, it all fits together. At the service of the band is a boatload of talent, and a healthy sense of irony and self-consciousness. Combined with punk ethos, the one sentence that comes to mind to describe the group is, “Eh, screw it, why not?” Each past effort has succeeded in the past because you don’t expect it to – it’s perfectly composed, and hideous at the same time.
And now, the new album. Bottomless Pit is… exactly what you’d think would happen. ‘Hot Head’ is by far the most inaccessible track, complete with Ride literally screaming nonsense with wild abandon over bucking synths. The synths still sound like they’re being played out of a blown-out speaker, and Hill still serves up some pretty gnarly drumming.
But, the band continues to push their sound in new directions. Ride’s rapping has become ingrained into the texture of the song. The stuttering beats on ‘Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighbors’ mix with cyberpunk-esque vibes coherently. The riff to ‘Bottomless Pit,’ the album’s closer, is a straight-up punk banger. ‘Trash’ starts with a V-I fanfare, over which Ride raps unusually conventionally. On ‘8080808,’ they actually sample ‘Lock your Doors’ off NO LOVE DEEP WEB. “Why?”, you may ask. Well, why not?
Also, ‘Warping’ is if a bad acid trip was a song.
The lyrics are best described as the incoherent ravings of a psychopath. I’d repeat some of the stranger verses here, but Cale might think I’ve had a stroke and phone an ambulance. The band projects an ethos of hedonism and nihilist existentialism; why bother making sense in a world without meaning? If I were better at philosophy, I could tell you how this is all an excellent criticism of late capitalism or something, but I think I’ll leave that to better reviewers. I dunno, man, carve out your own meaning. But there’s some neat stuff there.
Ten years ago, this album would have been massacred by critics. Today, they love it. Perhaps this speaks to some generational divide, with respect to a newfound sense of irony, a fatalist zeitgeist without regard for form, structure, or objective aesthetics which manifests in this piss-take of “real” music. Indeed, in their break-up note, Death Grips refers to themselves as a “Conceptual art exhibition, anchored by sound and vision, above and beyond a ‘band.’” Or maybe the lack of sleep from exam stress is killing me, and I have no idea what I’m talking about. Either way, if you like the style, you won’t have more fun with an album this year.