Uber-hyped and noisy Californian experimental hip hop trio Death Grips, have just begun a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tour of the east coast. Kicking off on Wednesday at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre, the ‘Grips moved on to Brisbane and finish with two shows in Melbourne before heading back to co-headline a US tour with Ministry. Ear trumpet manufacturers will be rubbing their hands together with glee over that one.
Death Grips have been widely hyped from the street press and alternative music mags to mainstream music sites and the arts pages of major newspapers. The band presents something genuinely new and genuinely edgy in a popular music scene that has been bereft of new ideas for some time.
I haven’t had my hair blown back by a group of younger musicians playing (or producing) heavy music since Alec Empire and his Digital Hardcore crew (including Atari Teenage Riot) burst forth in the early to mid-’90s.
It is no surprise then that the latest cool thing in ‘heaviness’ is electronics-based again. If asked to compare Death Grips to more established artists, I would say they are a cross between Aphex Twin, a host of rappers with a bit of Digital Hardcore thrown in.
Death Grips’ first trip here was in 2013 with an appearance at MOFO at MONA. Now they’re here promoting their new album Bottomless Pit. It may be their noisiest yet. A few years ago after a handful of EPs/albums they declared they had reached their peak and it would be pointless to continue. But with Bottomless Pit they give the impression that ‘more and harder’ is the only way forward — especially on first two tracks Giving Bad People Good Ideas and Hot Head.
The trio of rapper/vocalist MC Ride (Stefan Burnett), drummer/producer/songwriter Zach Hill and recording engineer Andy Morin kept the eager throng waiting for over 45 minutes on Wednesday, but when Death Grips finally hit the stage it was a hardcore hoedown. No breaks between songs, no encore and no relenting — especially for effective band leader Zach Hill. I’ve never witnessed such wild drumming; absolutely berserk.
But it was hard to take your eyes of MC Ride. He was like a roaring ice addict who was able to focus the madness onto his unique and scatter rapping as he stomped around the stage. Early set highlights included the singalong-like Get Got and the gothic-tinged Lost Boys from first album, The Money Store. During the latter, Hill smashed a drum stick to smithereens.