Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Death Grips - Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber Megamix) Review



With Death Grips, the unexpected has become the norm. All of their fans know this, and yet the allure of the trio still sends shockwaves through the community when the inevitable project drop occurs. That was Monday with Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber Megamix), a collection of distinct songs mashed together into 22 minutes of a psychotic, coke-fueled nightmare. Interestingly enough, despite bearing the brunt of the Internet's non-conformist marketing strategies, Death Grips finds predictability in their now three-year stretch of releasing a mini-project before dropping a full length LP. First there was 2015's Fashion Week, then there was 2016's Interview. Both projects differed in instant shock value, something that continues with Steroids' megamix, but faltered in execution. There's one obvious change here, and it's the end-all, be-all proof as to who's the most important member of Death Grips. Without MC Ride, Fashion Week and Interview bored with pummeling repetition. There was no spark to ignite the flames, no madman to make sense of the chaos. On Steroids, MC Ride is a force. A shaken, battered, and bruised (ego)maniac who's coerced into fantasizing about society's depraved underbelly; one that he most certainly resides in.

Despite Ride's insistence to garner the spotlight, what will ultimately strike listeners first is the frantic pace of the instrumentation brought upon by Zach Hill and Andy Morin. Shoehorned into the title is Gabber, a style of Techno that's characterized by rim-rattling BPM, distorted melodies, and schizophrenic vocal effects. In other words, it's right up Death Grips' alley. More often than not, Steroids renders the brain's thought patterns useless, as the ceaseless hammering of crazed percussion and synths numbs our malformed mush into submission. Thankfully, it's not Rave-like, as the songs are very much centered around Ride, following his lead, twisting around unforeseen bends at 200 miles an hour. This is the primary distinction between Steroids and their last two mini-projects. Without Ride swerving sporadically the production tendencies of Hill and Morin tend to hit cruise control. That doesn't happen here, as rarely do 30 seconds pass without some drastic sonic shift occurring. This can best be seen during the 'Bald Head Girls' passage, which fully embraces the Techno without ever overindulging on one specific instance. Simply imagining the plethora of layers on their audio programming software gives me a migraine. In cases like this, and the 'Black Body' track, comparisons to the balls-to-the-wall experimentalism of Government Plates can be heard.

That's not the only comparison though, as Steroids comes equip with the unpredictability of Niggas On The Moon, the lo-fi slop of Ex-Military, and the synth worship of Bottomless Pit. There's instances of more material as well, like a segment of 'Black Body' that plods in the darkened recesses of Ride's mind in a similar vein to No Love Deep Web. And then there's the track following the 11:40 mark that uses ridged bass and a consistent two-step a la The Money Store's bangers. One of my favorites though is 'My Whole Life's' finale, where Ride temporarily calms Hill and Morin's devilish sonic perversions so he can gloat with a fiendish flow as he did on 'Say Hey Kid.' It's here where my adoration of Ride can be found, as his lyricism, when intelligible (which is rare on Steroids), finds a balance between mentally-intact and emotionally-off the rails. On 'Black Body' this clairvoyant side emerges again; "At the time didn't recognize myself till I was petrified, but half the time I'm not myself, so most of the time I don't question why." It's a shame that the majority of Steroids covers Ride's fleeting fragility behind bumbling anarchy. Thankfully, that topsy-turvy clutter is enjoyable too.

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