Friday, May 6, 2016

Death Grips - Bottomless Pit Review

Death Grips has quickly become a staple of music's post-modern, Internet-sleuthing scene, complete with anti-commercial sentiments, antagonistic reactions, and tongue-in-cheek baiting. In this regard, to fans of the Experimental Hip-Hop trio, these past five years have been, unquestionably, a bottomless pit; one complete with seeping sewage, creepy crawlers, and the gurgling noise of a homeless man howling beneath. They continually taunt their fans who sadistically enjoy this torment and fail to conduct formal interviews, leaving an impressionable enigma that only reveals itself with the music they selectively release. Last year saw their notoriety combust with Jenny Death, the second half of The Powers That B, counteracting the Glitch-infested hogwash Niggas On The Moon with searing guitars that evoked raw Rock power anthems, culminating in MC Ride calling out his own fans on 'On GP' through sideswiped Shoegaze. 'Death Grips 2.0,' Jenny Death's finale, witnessed a sudden shift to rampant polyrhythms, signaling an obvious change for the group (however unnecessary that was) into even more daunting worlds. Bottomless Pit synoptically marks the next step, where a formal evolution into chaotic Synth Punk takes form. The result is less monumental, more impressionistic.

There were a lot of signs Bottomless Pit would relish in disorderly obstruction, namely The i.l.y's I've Always Been Good At True Love. A side project from Zach Hill and Andy Morin, the LP festered in Noise Rock, living in an abandoned garage with only the basic essentials on hand. The album was forgotten fairly quickly, failing to receive the flair of a formal Death Grips release. This, as was the case with Fashion Week and Interview 2016, was due to the absence of the group's face; MC Ride. A ruthless dictator lording over his malleable production, Ride's dexterity allows mashable tunes to form concrete foundations. In other words, without him, Bottomless Pit is no better than the other instrumental albums on tap. But his presence, no matter how indistinguishable, shockingly brings order to the chaos. Not due to his penmanship, this is without a doubt the rapper's worst performance as a lyrical emcee. Forgoing riveting bars ('Say Hey Kid'), unbridled emotion ('Beware'), and cryptic nonsequiturs ('Birds'), Ride chooses instead to become a Pop star. Indeed. Returning to the roots of The Money Store, Bottomless Pit's bread and butter arrive in the form of catchy hooks, leaving the verses as secondary banter.

Every track here gives off an immediate punch. If 2015's double album had you expecting another epic, be warned, Bottomless Pit contracts the edges like a boa constrictor killing its prey, shredding excess in a blender. Fairly quickly you'll entirely forget the fact that this is Death Grips' least conceptual release. A double edged sword for sure, these 13 interchangeable tracks play out like a mixtape of ideas rather than a full-fledged album. It goes in line with the group's intentions of creating a work that defied superfluity, relying heavily on the sheer talents of each member without obsessing over distinctive pieces. A concise comparative, 'Hot Head,' the longest track here (4:18), pales in terms of duration to eight of the ten tracks on Jenny Death. More than that, it eclipses the next closest on its own album by a minute, meaning 16 of the 18 cuts on The Powers That B are longer than Bottomless Pit's second beefiest. Now that's a Punk album. This results in not a single down moment, as it spurs on for 39 barbarous minutes, reckless and agonizing. However, this also means no substantial identifiers, with each track falling in the same spot on the quality scale.

Ask anybody their top three and, after they explain that it's constantly in flux, they'll name a combination unique to themselves. For me, it's 'Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood,' 'Spikes,' and 'Trash.' However, come back tomorrow and you'll likely receive a new trio. This is how Pop music works, and as much as I hate to say it, Bottomless Pit is relatively safe in this regard. It's intended, sure, but there's no risks to be found. The almost inconceivable percussion that thumps at the maximum pace a human can withstand, the plucky Sci-Fi synths darting in any minute empty space, and the near thrash metal guitars (prominent on the title track), make Bottomless Pit sound lawless, but the similarities make it, somewhat, orderly. If you're into comparisons, Death Grips' latest tends to lean towards NO LOVE DEEP WEB's foreboding presence. If that LP was a sinister thriller sending goosebumps up your spine, Bottomless Pit is its slasher flick sequel where the villain returns with chains, drills, and a load of jump scares. Expect a seizure warning to appear before the opening credits.

While the cons of Bottomless Pit can be obvious given its own, sometimes detrimental, construct, the pros, in typical Death Grips fashion, outweigh any criticisms. Bottomless Pit is a fun record, and unlike the monstrous 80-minute TPTB, it's one that you can put on, shuffle up, and enjoy on your own preferences. So while esoteric content may not be prevalent here, substituted for Ride boasting as good as Hip-Hop's most confident emcees, the scene around Bottomless Pit, with dial-up single 'Trash' being the latest antic, makes this unquestionably Death Grips; a testament to the group's ability to show diversity within their own parameters. It's also an essential release, one that eschews the experimentation found on NOTM and Government Plates for diehard fans, in favor of (relative) mass appeal. In an age where it seems every trending artist is following Death Grips' surprise drop mentality, the trio has reverted back to structure; pre-planned release dates and 'Eh' premiering on Beats 1 Radio the biggest indicator to that. It's a new age, and with Bottomless Pit, a group always labeled as the Internet's flavor of the month continues to prove why they're more than just a corny gimmick.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I don't see a justification in calling this MC Ride's worst lyrical performance, or the band's least conceptual release. A reading of the lyrics almost clearly acknowledges to me, at least, that BP is about, in part, the relationship between the band and its fans. The first half, or so, of the album showcases the apathy and indifference felt by the members towards them, and the tacitly vituperative delivery of Ride's admonishment to many a fan's presumptions regarding the band's true nature/purpose. In the second half, the tone shifts to a sexually metaphorical nature wherein a description is haphazardly pieced together of the fans' promiscuously addictive reception of the band, and how such deviance may just end up being self-degrading and with no conceivable end in sight (kind of like a bottomless pit). The conceptual nature of the album is further consolidated if one considers the first part as cause and the second part as effect, although this is just a personal interpretation.

    Lyrically, this is one of the band's most imagery-inducing works yet, albeit still esoterically packaged in its details. Lines like "arsenic liquid chrome my carcass on my throne" in Houdini, "you're ten thousand leagues subzero sweat dripping" in Spikes, and "I’ll reap you through this maze of masochists bulging with hives" in the title track all give this view of a megalomaniac thinking he is emperor; yet when you juxtapose this with "anomalous like entropy make all things perforated" from Eh, and basically all of Trash, then you see that this egotist is schizophrenic enough to regard himself as both the most important of kings and the least relevant of paupers, which in my eyes is another beautiful rendition of one falling through a bottomless pit, as espousing these diametrically opposed perspectives gives one of the most tenuous of foundations upon which to build one's own subjectively conceived framework of being.

    In my opinion, the band's ability to mould this form of complexity within the sonic parameters of quite infectiously catchy hooks made this album probably the most conceptually and viscerally satisfying endeavours I've had from them in a while.

    1. I absolutely see where you're coming from, and you've made a lot of great points that I won't argue. I never looked at it like cause and effect before, but I can totally see that as an answer to why Ride goes from being dominant to battered over his own achievements. I think while one-liners may be enticing the overall content isn't up to the standards of most of their other releases. Not saying it's bad, not at all, just not as good as when Ride's hitting on all cylinders. And I don't feel that was the purpose, as the focus definitely lied on the production and catchiness. Plus a do feel a lot of the content here has been done of Ex-Military better, excluding the fan stuff which hadn't been established yet.

      Which yes, in regards to your last paragraph, it is absolutely a catchy, visceral album. Comparably to The Money Store in that regard, in my opinion. For me though, as opposed to others, I tend to prefer Ride when he's oddly intimate, or the group when they're being super experimental. Straight forward Death Grips filtered through Pop does a lot to attract my attention but little to make me in shock, especially when that's what I've come to expect from the group.

      Thanks for your reply though, that was much appreciated! Always great to see that level of thought go into dissecting something.

    2. Maybe it's just me, but maybe we may have a different subjective perspective on what constitutes Ride hitting on all cylinders. I mean, I do understand that the band focused more on the sonic aesthetic, in terms of having a more mainstream-ish sound, more so than a lot of their other projects, and that catchy one-liners were a focal point in this LP, but Ride to me stayed pretty consistent all throughout the album in terms of the concepts he was trying to portray and the appropriateness of their delivery, although I will admit that in some areas redundancy is a noticeable issue. Maybe it's an issue with the allowance of esoteric means for a much wider spectrum of value attribution than otherwise, which has always been of relevance in all of Death Grips' works, even among their fans.

      In terms of what Exmilitary had to offer regarding the conceptualization of a completely paranoid and schizophrenic character, I will agree that they have tackled similar issues in the past, although I believe that it takes on an evolution in this album due to its relationship with concepts brought forth concerning the aforementioned metaphorical sexual deviancy with which their fans receive the band. Yes, Ride was schizophrenically egotistical before, but now he seems like a schizophrenic kingpin of a pimp, which is amusing to me.

      I will have to agree with you on the fact that I did wish the album was a bit more experimental with a lot more "what-in-the-actual-fuck!!" moments; however, overall, I do greatly appreciate what they did bring to the table in this one. Also, I really appreciate as well the reply :)