Tag Archives: Exmilitary

Death Grips: The Powers That B

17 Dec

The Powers That BBy Travis Carlyle 

Following Death Grips often feels like coming across parody news articles without realising what you are reading. One week it’s “new album coming soon”, next it’s “all live shows cancelled”; the following week it’s “hitting the road with Nine Inch Nails”, then it’s “we’ve disbanded”… you’re basically just confused as to what is real and what is them fucking with you on a level you’re not entirely aware of yet.

So it seemed most of the way through 2014 – a year in which I had convinced myself that Death Grips had faded into the abyss of lost cool bands… and then disc one off of their latest release, The Powers That B (2015) happened. The release forms part of a double-disc album and features Icelandic singer-songwriter, Björk, on all the first disc’s eight tracks.

While I am not overly familiar with Björk’s discography, I have dabbled in three of her nine releases and can safely say you would likely not even know that she was featured on the album’s first disc had you not read the Wikipedia article for Death Grips’ release.

Her voice forms part of a mashed quagmire of typical Death Grips sampling and over-production – as to how much of a hand she played in producing the album itself, I can only speculate. My initial feelings would be quite heavily, though, as experimentation across the eight tracks is high – even for Death Grips (which is saying something as these fellas are practically the Radiohead of Hipster Hop).

That said, it’s a step too far and I don’t feel myself slipping into disc one and the hazy atmosphere its electronic bed and primitive, raw drum line is built on. This is definitely a new direction for Death Grips, one the refinement time brings can easily cure.

Disc two of The Powers That B is stylistically more in tune with the rest of Death Grips’ discography. Experimentation is toned back to The Money Store (2012) levels and feels a lot more rounded as a project. The first songs on the disc feel like a Punk-Rock release, with meta-sampling from as far back as their own debut release (Exmilitary [2011]) and a much stronger emphasis on not over-producing their work. Samples flow from one to the next and are not manically conjoined into a rambunctious mess of overlapping and discordant sounds – which is incidentally all that disc one can truly be remembered as.

“Inanimate Sensations” is one of the best songs I’ve heard in years and “Turned Off” is just… beautiful – if anything, this is the type of song I would have expected Death Grips to create with Björk.

As a product, disc two just fits together in a manner the album’s opening disc seems incapable of attaining. There’s a flow and return to earlier sound structures that is both interesting and calming (in the same way as eating ice-cream you haven’t had since you were eight, and it tasting the same, is reassuring).

It’s hard to treat The Powers That B as a single release as it is clearly just two separate discs thrown together – a disjuncture that isn’t helped by the fact that one half is so much better than the other. While disc one is an experimental phase you don’t need to pay much attention to, disc two is Exmilitary amounts of brilliance (a level I thought the band would never get close to attaining again).