Is it a 90s loading screen of an Atari Jaguar game? Is it the soundtrack to wipE’out” 2097 on the Playstation? No! It’s Fashion Week by Death Grips – wait, what?
As is Death Grips’ wont, Fashion Week dropped by surprise1 on 4 January 2015 as a free download on the band’s Third Worlds web site sans explanation or announcement. The cover photograph is that of Chicago artist Sua Yoo, who provided the artwork to Death Grips’ 2012 studio debut The Money Store and drew the cryptic “Jennifer 2014” gun a few days after the group’s “break-up.”2
The album was offered for download in between the separately released halves of Death Grips’ double-album The Powers that B – the first of which came out on 8 June 2014 – and cryptically hinted at a release date for the latter half. The song titles form an acrostic that spells “JENNY DEATH WHEN” – Jenny Death being the title to the second disc of The Powers that B. The London Fashion Week in 2014 occurred in early/mid-February, leading Death Grips fans to speculate that Jenny Death would be released during the show’s run.3 Sadly, Death Grips did not officially release Jenny Death until 31 March, although it was leaked two weeks prior.4
The band advertised Fashion Week as an “instrumental soundtrack,”5 a curious change for the industrial hip-hop group famed for the paranoid and belligerent lyricism of rapper MC Ride. The group ditched the entire industrial and punk-ish aesthetic for what’s ostensibly pure breakbeat; Fashion Week took the rave atmosphere on previous full-length Government Plates to its logical end. It’s very dissimilar to the nihilistic aggression of No Love Deep Web and the relatively orthodox6 indie/industrial hip-hop of The Money Store.
The problem with Fashion Week is that it sounds unfinished. Without MC Ride’s vocal input, Fashion Week sounds little more than a set of fourteen demos, especially in context of Death Grips’ discography. The songs are not bad – for the most part – just bare, and oddly decorous for a group (in)famous in independent music for anarchic songwriting. The tracks are rather typical breakbeat; if this weren’t billed as a Death Grips album, then the average listener would not know any better.
There are a few highlights. “Runway J” is pure frenetic Death Grips from Government Plates, and the break even sounds like that from “Big House.” “Runway Y” and “Runway D” utilize contemporary EDM. “Runway T” is the best track on the album; it melds gated reverb, low-bpm percussion with slick and sly electronic keyboard grooves. Track twelve – the second “Runway H” – features guitars by Nick Reinhart of fellow Sacramento group Tera Melos, he would also appear on Jenny Death.
Fashion Week is a strange part of Death Grips’ discography. It’s hard to look at the album as anything other than hype factor/placeholder for the second half of The Powers that B, chiefly due to its presentation. The favorable tracks are recommended though, and even if the whole of Fashion Week lacks in variety or excitement, the individual standouts elude the others’ humdrum. Maybe recommended for a Kierkegaard-themed rave or the next installment to aforementioned WipEout series.
1. Runway J – (4:09) – ★★★★★
2. Runway E – (3:14) – ★★★☆☆
3. Runway N – (2:42) – ★★★★★
4. Runway N – (3:01) – ★★☆☆☆
5. Runway Y – (4:01) – ★★★★☆
6. Runway D – (4:43) – ★★★★☆
7. Runway E – (3:25) – ★★★☆☆
8. Runway A – (3:37) – ★★☆☆☆
9. Runway T – (2:36) – ★★★★★
10. Runway H – (4:29) – ★★★☆☆
11. Runway W – (3:35) – ★★★☆☆
12. Runway H – (3:47) – ★★★★☆
13. Runway E – (2:21) – ★★☆☆☆
14. Runway N – (2:01) – ★★☆☆☆
2Try as I might, I can’t actually find the original instagram/facebook link; but here is a screenshot: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Br6afx2IQAA_uPS.jpg
3As demonstrated by this excited 4chan posting: http://i.imgur.com/Oc4lZN0.png
4… which shouldn’t be surprising if you’re a Death Grips fan. The group’s modus operandi is all about fucking with people.
5“Death Grips releases surprise instrumental album Fashion Week | Music | The Guardian,” Guardian News and Media Limited, accessed 17 November 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jan/05/death-grips-suprise-instrumental-album-fashion-week
6Speaking from 2015, mind you.