Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Album Review: Death Grips' NO LOVE DEEP WEB

First off, this is the fucking album cover I'm using because it's the "properest" of the lot. Secondly, I was explaining to one of my friends about how Death Grips released their own album early (this one) much to the dismay of their label, and having their website "shut down" in the process. I don't know if you have ever tried to describe what Death Grips sounds like, but it is extremely difficult to do without using the word "violent;" that's exactly the word I decided to go with. Even if the subject matter of the song is paranoia, the dangers of misrepresentation, or bouncing, everything feels like its being rocketed at your face. After I said, "Well, they're like, violent and angry," I went on to describe their genre as "militaristic-electro-hardcore-rap," which I think does a fair enough job of labeling an almost ineffable rap collective.

So as you all may know now, Death Grips decided to release NO LOVE DEEP WEB themselves. I saw flashed of when Radiohead released In Rainbows for a price you named; it's certainly something that will change how artists interact with labels from now on out, which brings me to an almost completely unrelated anecdote: I was randomly looking up Arcade Fire's Neon Bible - maybe I just felt like I didn't know enough about the album - and discovered how the band accidentally released the wrong song as a single, tried to remove it, and found out just how fast peer-to-peer sharing is. NO LOVE DEEP WEB was leaked, the website taken down, but after about six hours - about a weeks' time in Internet time - the album had gone viral. It would be nearly impossible to hunt down every copy and have it deleted. Death Grips had won: the record released on their own accord.

It would be unfair to be have this release's birth go unmentioned in this review, as it escalates the rating immensely. It's difficult to not overly romanticize and admire the album, due to its completely groundbreaking release. Yes, it's nowhere close to being as good as The Money Store, but I believe it to be a much more important record. If NO LOVE DEEP WEB had been released under the label's stipulations, it would be a solid B/B+ album, but because of its release, I am going to give it an A+ (something I vowed never to do; calling something an instant classic is extremely brash).

Every label that saw what happened with Death Grips and this record is scared shitless. This adds a whole other level to how a label will handle records from now on out. Obviously, albums leak -- I myself am part of two leak websites -- but never has a band so recklessly avoided a label's decisions than Death Grips, and then broadcasted it through twitter! And how perfect it is to have the first band to so dramatically leak their own record than Death Grips.

"I've got some shit to say, just for the fuck of it" MC Ride testifies on "Lock Your Doors". The band is known for its sporadic, cryptic operations, so when they signed to Epic I was baffled. How could a band so anti-establishment sign to a proper label? Well, I guess it didn't matter where they signed; they were going to continue to operate the same. The Money Store proved the collective could produce the same product under a label's supervision. It features the best work the band has ever done, a wide range of songwriting and anger. NO LOVE DEEP WEB prolongs the band's reputation as one of the most original acts to come out in years.

So, to finally touch upon the material featured on the album: it's excellent. MC Ride sounds as exhaustingly frustrated as all hell, the beats are minimal yet effective, and the songs feature a variety of styles within the band's own niche. Zach Hill played all the beats himself, there are no programmed drums, which would be impossible to recognize due to Hill's perfect drumming; I mean, the guy is a well-oiled robot. The beats are a little more dialed back here - you won't hear any random found sound in the beats, just a few samples sprinkled in. It parallels what FlyLo did with Until the Quiet Comes, letting the instruments breathe in the beats rather than cramming as much in as possible.

When I put my headphones on for the inaugural listen, my eardrums tingled from the bass, a little uncomfortably but just enough to keep my interest piqued; this is some deep bass music, not your shitty overly trebled "brostep." MC Ride comes through with a lot less effect-driven vocals, a lot cleaner - if he could ever be clean - on NLDW than The Money Store. It's easy to see the evolution from album to album here, so it makes sense why Death Grips cancelled the tour for The Money Store to record this album. Sometimes the creative process can consume.

At the end of the day, Death Grips have released what could easily have served as the second LP in a double release with The Money Store, but it's the fashion in which it was released that holds the most bearing over how I listened to NO LOVE DEEP WEB. If you see this as just another release from a band that's having one hell of a year, you lack scope and imagination: The record industry will never be the same.

Final Grade: A+

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