If you had to capture the essence of Death Grips appeal in one word, you couldn’t do much better than vulgarity. The Sacramento, CA experimental hip-hop troupe’s music is a truly unpleasant experience at times, forcibly welding industrial force and punk fury to barked lyrics and exaltations of power, violence and mania, yet all the while remaining immediate and engrossing. Much like pulp novels, video nasties or heavy metal, their willingness to meet baser, fouler themes has made them something approaching a genuine popular concern.
Government Plates, self-released last Thursday (and the first full-length we’ve got from the group since their bizarre major-label tenure reached its inevitable implosion in a flurry of leaks, legal threats and dick pics), is everything we’ve come to expect from them. It’s disorienting, fractured, boundary-pushing, and, most importantly, dependably excellent. Where NOLOVEDEEPWEB was mostly a brutal, minimalist affair, Plates takes a more nuanced approach without sacrificing any impact.
The Dylan nodding ‘You might think he loves you….’ kicks off the record with the sound of breaking glass and a sharp electronic squeal that sounds like Aphex Twin’s car alarm, which should give the listener a good sense of what their getting into. As the track unfolds, veering back and forth between MC Ride’s tangled, angular flow and the buzzing sludge that drags the track along, it’s another taste of Zach Hill’s latest psychological warfare strategy, first heard when they dropped ‘Birds’ a few months back. The moment you start to get anyway comfortable, he’ll send the track in a completely different direction. ‘This Is Violence Now’ opens with crude hardcore beats and gaudy chopped vocals, only to lead into a drop that feels like a kick in the gut. The eerie, lazy verses of ‘Birds’ work much better in the context of the full album to show that they can unnerve without resorting to the aggression that dominates the rest of the album.
That’s the real joy in Government Plates. Even after you begin to get desensitised to the gut-wrenching, visceral impact of the record, it suddenly shows itself as an altogether different beast; a deftly arranged electronic record that attempts, and sometimes manages, to find a missing link between IDM and industrial music. It’s always been a concern that the novelty of their no-holds barred approach could soon wear off, but the sheer inventiveness showed on this release could mean we’ve got a lot left to get out of them. We can but hope.