photo & text by nacrowe
i hate SACRAMENTO with a PASSION.
i spent my senior year of high school living with a relative in a WHITE-BREAD suburb of the state capital in the wake of 9/11 and was just appalled at the IN-YOUR-FACE JINGOISM, RACISM and just NAKED IDIOCY on full daily display. and that aftertaste very much still lingers. at the time, i kept thinking that nothing of CULTURAL VALUE has come from the area with the lone exception being the SEMINAL ALTERNATIVE METAL band DEFTONES. over the past two decades that list has been amended a bit with INNOVATIVE and IMPACTFUL acts such as HELLA, CHELSEA WOLFE, TERA MELOS and DEATH GRIPS.
when i first came across the debut mixtape EX MILITARY (THIRD WORLDS, 2011) by EXPERIMENTAL HIP HOP act DEATH GRIPS i was completely emotionally sideswiped. it didnt process. it was like this ABSURD hybrid of the highly MANIPULATED, IMAGINATIVE FOUND SOUND-enabled UNPREDICTABILITY of APHEX TWIN, the OBLITERATING sonic BRUTALITY of CONVERGE and the CONFRONTATIONAL, NO-BULLSHIT, STREETWISE LYRICISM of the WU-TANG CLAN. these component parts should not exist together, and yet they do and the sound is CHAOTIC and BEAUTIFUL in its TECHNICAL WIZARDRY, COMPOSITIONAL COMPLEXITY and EMOTIONAL RELEASE. EX MILITARY was easily one of the most ADVENTUROUS releases i had heard in decades. the whole VISUAL and AURAL AESTHETIC of DEATH GRIPS is absolute uncertainty conceived and played with UNRIVALED PRECISION. it is BRILLIANT.
the three-piece is made up of MC/vocalist RIDE, drummer ZACH HILL and keyboardist/programmer ANDY MORIN. HILL of course is a PRODIGIOUS, generationally TALENTED musician that came to UNDERGROUND prominence in the PROGRESSIVE MATH ROCK band HELLA. his METRONOMIC PRECISION on the kit is ABSURD, which is prefect in the context of DEATH GRIPS and their EXTREME DYNAMICS with EVER-SHIFTING AND COMPLEX TIME SIGNATURES and TEMPO SHIFTS designed for the maximum juxtaposition of DISSONANCE and AURAL DISLOCATION. key tacks included "BEWARE," "CULTURE SHOCK," "GUILLOTINE," "LORD OF THE GAME" and "KNOWN FOR IT." RIDE comes across as the most INTENSE and PRIMAL of ringleaders of a DEMENTED circus youd never wish to attend, guiding you through a sonic mind-field that is both OVERWHELMING and EXASPERATING in detail and UNRELENTING BRUTALITY alike. i see his function within the MUSIC as making it feel COHESIVE by providing a FOCAL POINT and an INTENT, even if such is purely CATHARTIC and EMOTIONAL in scope initially. his VOICE pulls you in and directs you through the CHAOS.
not sure what else to say. i absolutely adore this band and this mixtape. an absolutely ESSENTIAL release that is well worth checking out, much like other OPAQUE yet highly IMAGINATIVE and ORIGINAL releases of past decades like NINE INCH NAILS' THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL (INTERSCOPE, 1994), SWANS' CHILDREN OF GOD (CAROLINE, 1987), CAPTAIN BEEFHEART's TROUT MASK REPLICA (STRAIGHT, 1969) or MF DOOM's VAUDVILLE VILLAIN (SOUND-INK, 2003).