Listening to experimental hip-hop band Death Grips latest release Fashion Week, which was described by the band as an instrumental soundtrack, is not easy. The album plays around with a lot of different styles and seems to be expressing a hundred ideas at once. That said – I liked it.
Death Grips’ surprise return album Fashion Week may prove to be divisive with the band pushing their experimental sounds into new territory.
Fashion Week has a pretty interesting back story – the album was posted on the group’s reddit page a few months ago by someone of unknown origin and largely dismissed as a fake. It was later posted to Death Grips official Soundcloud page proving that it was ligit. This is significant because it brings up questions about whether the tracks were finished and whether they were intended to be presented as an album. Some have even suggested it was the band themselves who made the leak. This of course wouldn’t be all the surprising given the groups history of erratic behavior. Another fun fact is that the track list spells out JENNYDEATHWHEN, a provocative acknowledgment of their supposed last albums much discussed release date. Fashion Week left me feeling confused but ultimately wanting more.
The first two tracks, Runway J and Runway E fall pretty flat – sounding like something you would have heard at a bad rave on the first series of Skins. The album however picks up on the third track Runway N, a bouncy and playful song that makes me want to put on big headphones and dance in the street like the guy from Whateverest. The eighth track Runway A is another highlight, a break beat gem that will make you envision yourself running from bad guys in a virtual reality computer game. The muted out horns create a feeling of dissonance that is exciting but also somewhat anxiety inducing.
The biggest let down on Fashion Week is the twelfth track, Runway H. The pop guitars surprise and feel pretty out of place. The standout of the album, also titled Runway H is track ten. Its sluggish dubstep is immersive and creates a feeling of unease. When you’re listening to it you kind of really want it to be over but when it does end you want to hit the replay button.
Fashion Week is less menacing than previous Death Grips releases and whilst I did miss the punch of Burnett’s lyrics the glitchy production and rattling drums were enough to maintain the bracing aggressive feel we have come to expect from the band. Fashion Week is somewhat spotty and exists rather as a collection of songs than a cohesive album but if you put that aside and focus on the merit of individual tracks Death Grips have definatly done something interesting. They have continued to push sonic boundaries and challenge how we listen to music.
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