Interview with Street Sects

Street Sects made a name for themselves in 2014 with a few intense singles, but now with the release of their debut full-length “End Position” the shit of humanity has hit the fan once and for all and the skeletons are marching furiously out of the closets. The band’s incorporation of classic Industrial, Punk Rock and Power Electronics seems to come straight from their suffering hearts, and demands a chat.

Hello! Where are you currently writing this, and how has the day fared you so far? This half of the year has most likely been eventful for you, with the release of your masterpiece “End Position”?

SHAUN: I’m writing the answers to this on a notepad while waiting in a Firestone Auto lobby. Thinking of the eventfulness of End Position, I’m now reflecting mostly on the west coast tour we just finished. However, the best part of all of this, for me, has been the people writing to us to personally say the record resonated with them. That has given me some happiness, as well as some great sadness for all the years I wasted on bullshit.

LEO: I’m in Dallas right now, visiting my girlfriend. The day has just begun. And yeah, things have definitely been busy since the record came out. It’s been exciting, but I’m hoping things will be even busier next year. I’d like to think that our “masterpiece” has still yet to be written.

You are formed in Austin Texas, creating music that hasn’t really been in the minds of wider audiences, besides the nostalgic and retro-obsessed Industrialists and Electro-punks. How is the local scene, or the scenes of the US for that matter, when it comes to stuff like yours?

SHAUN: The local scene is comprised of many genres, from Country Western to Metal to analog Electro to deejay culture–and then everything that goes with three major music festivals per year. There isn’t a scene for the music we’ve written in particular, but there are many talented, experimental Electronic artists in Austin.

LEO: There’s a pretty vibrant dark Electronic music scene here in Austin. Most of it is either Noise or analog synth based stuff, but there’s a small handful of artists who exist somewhere outside of those two camps. We don’t always fit well on most bills around here. That seems to be the case on tour also. Because we don’t fall neatly into a category, we tend to find ourselves on all different kinds of bills, which sometimes works out, and sometimes backfires. For every one person that seems to dig what we’re doing, there’s definitely at least one or two who can’t fucking stand it. That’s great in a way, but it makes finding the right crowds who appreciate what we do a bit more of a challenge. I think a lot of people who frequent dark music shows have a pre-disposition of what they expect certain genre artists to sound like or adhere to, and we don’t really fall in line with that.

Personally, I like to think of genres as being colors on a palette, as tools or resources to be used in service of creating something unique, rather than as established categories to be filed under. Other people came up with these ideas of genre. As singular concepts genres are limiting and repetitive, but if you think of genres as being historical data or raw materials to be explored and exploited, it can be energizing and inspiring. I’ve seen people online arguing about our record, and whether or not it’s Power Electronics, or Industrial Metal, or Gabber-Noise or countless other goofy genre tags… I think some of these people might be disappointed to learn that we seriously couldn’t care less about any of that bullshit. We don’t sit around listening to Industrial music all day. There’s a lot of artists from the genre that we dig, of course, and we certainly respect the legacy and craft of the early innovators, but we aren’t trying to carry a torch for any of that stuff. Industrial music is an inspiration for us, not a blueprint.I probably listen to more seventies Rock than anything, because I like the production from that era. The attention to detail, the three dimensional warmth. The entire year or so we were working on End Position I don’t think I listened to much of anything, regularly, besides Street Sects demos and Roxy Music. Part of that is because I get ear fatigue from working at a venue and listening to the demos Shaun sends me, but part of it is also because I’m not trying to steep my brain in heavy Electronic music constantly. I don’t blast Death Grips and Skinny Puppy on my way to work. Those guys are great, but I don’t find myself in the mood to listen to that kind of stuff very often. For me, Street Sects is very much about creating art for selfish reasons. It feels good to create and perform… It scratches a certain kind of primal itch. It’s not about writing a love letter to our predecessors.

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What other styles of music have you been into, besides the obvious influences of your music? Have you been or are you currently active with other bands before Street Sects?

SHAUN: Leo and I have played together in a few bands before. Mostly it was guitar driven music. Guitar was my primary instrument for a long time. I started taking lessons around eleven years of age. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Rap. Kids in my neighborhood would get together to play basketball and play on cassette all the Deathrow Records stuff, and then Wu-Tang. Later on I got into Metal, followed by Jazz.

LEO: I was born in 1980, so as a kid I was obsessed with MTV. During grade school it was everything to me. MTV, comic books, and video games. My dad was an ex air force guy who’d held onto all the records he’d bought while he was in the service, traveling the world, and he played me a lot of great stuff when I was young. Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, those are some of the ones that stuck with me. He wouldn’t let me use his record player when he wasn’t home, so I would just flip through his records and obsess over the album art and lyric sheets when he was at work. I had a cassette player in my room, and my parents would buy me tapes for my birthday and Christmas, but tapes were never as cool to me as my dad’s records. The artwork was so much bigger and he had these really nice old Bose speakers he would play them through. Everything about it made the music seem so much more alive to me. I remember a really definitive moment for me was when I saw the premiere of the music video for Metallica’s “One” on MTV. It blew my fucking mind. My cassette player had a built in microphone in it, and you could put in a blank tape (or a regular tape with scotch tape over the two holes on the bottom) and record audio onto it. I used to put the tape player up to the TV speaker and record songs off MTV that I liked. The next time I saw “One” come on I recorded it. I listened to that tape until it was worn out. When I finally got a proper version of And Justice For All on cassette for my birthday or whatever that year, I was really disappointed with the album version of One because it didn’t have all those badass samples from Johnny Got His Gun that were in the video version. If you listen to that version, especially the ending, with the machine-like drumming and those samples laid over it, it has a very Industrial feel to it.

In terms of other projects, I started off playing in Hardcore bands in the mid-late nineties, the most notable being Failsafe, an off kilter, DC inspired Hardcore band I was in with Terence Hannum (now of Locrian), and Jon Glover (now of Ars Phoenix). Another band I was in with Jon, back in the early 2000’s, was a band called Kilborough. We had sort of an uncategorizable sound that blended of a lot of different elements. The couple of years I spent in that project were instrumental to how I work as a musician today. One of the members in that group, Todd Pendv, was kind of like a mentor to me in some ways during that time. He opened my mind up to a lot of new music, art, film and literature, and really helped me redefine my creative approach. I can be a very stubborn, one track minded person sometimes, and he kind of beat into me the importance of experimentation as exercise, and also to take my time with things. When I was younger I was always in a hurry to finish projects, and that’s obviously not the best approach when you want to make something of lasting value. Todd went on to start Pendv Sound Recordings in NYC, and he released records by Chelsea Wolfe, Sasha Grey’s Atelecine and more before leaving behind the music world entirely for a successful career in the fashion industry.

Street Sects is the only currently active project that I’m involved with right now. We’ve got more than enough on our plate to keep me busy. However, I did contribute vocals to an EP for a project called History, which is a thing I did a few years back with Daisy Caplan (formerly of Foxy Shazam). It’s kind of his solo thing, in a way, and I just sang on it, but it’s significant to me because I did about half of it while I was still an alcoholic/drug addict (when I was literally at my absolute worst), and the other half I did after I got out of rehab and was living in a halfway house in Jacksonville FL. So to me it kind of represents this huge transitional phase in my life. Daisy and his wife Rachelle also played a huge role in me getting sober, but that’s another story. We finally had that record mixed and mastered this past year and it should be coming out on Realicide Youth Records sometime in 2017.

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As you work musically mostly with electronics and samples, are you pretty much fed up with so-called organic music, or is this just the way of this particular project? Has Electronic music been something that has interested you since a kid?

SHAUN: Electronic music has allowed me to move outside of expressions I’ve learned over the years with guitar. Also, yeah, I go back and forth on wanting to hear recognizable Rock n Roll sounds in music. I need a combination of things now. A process that isn’t focused on gear but rather an emotional reaction to a particular sound, no matter how that sound gets documented.

LEO: I wouldn’t say that I’m fed up with organic music at all. Electronics are a means to an end. I don’t see Street Sects relying entirely upon the same means indefinitely. For now, it works

I was more into Rock and Heavy Metal as a kid than I was anything Electronic based. The first Wlectronic bands I really got into were definitely Industrial bands. Ministry’s Psalm 69 and NIN’s Downward Spiral were both pretty huge records for me when I was young, but by then I was about 12 or 13.

The themes of the album seem to be coming from personal places of deep disgust, depression, apathy and even self-destruction. The creation of the album has most likely been a purifying experience for you?

LEO: Not really. Speaking for myself, I don’t use music as a way to work through my problems. It’s self reflection, sure, but I don’t see it as therapy. At least not at this point. I mean, say you’re an artist, and you hate your face. So you sit in front of a mirror and draw a self portrait. You draw it as accurately as you possibly can. When you’ve finished the drawing, do you find that you dislike your face any less? I don’t think it’s that easy.

The clear and melodically sung vocal-parts of your music are performed very professionally. Is this approach, besides the more screaming aspects of the vocals, something you had in mind from the start of the band or something you realized could work later on?

LEO: It was something I wanted from the beginning. If you listen to the early 7″ stuff, the singing parts are there, they’re just buried under a lot of effects and poor mixing. Shaun and I have had a few other projects together where clear and melodic singing were a primary focal point of the music. With this project, I wanted it to be glued to the mix in a way where it becomes sort of another texture, but still prominent enough to draw you in, to exist as the emotive, human element amidst the Industrial soundscape.

As you play live as well, how would you compare the performances on the stage to the work at the studio? What is the typical Street Sects song-creation process like in general?

SHAUN: There are times when the workflow is good and strong and I’ll sketch a song all in one go, but often I prefer to make a song piecemeal, sending Leo sketches and asking for detailed impressions, then manipulating texture and tone until something sticks. As for studio compared with live, they’re completely separate experiences. I love studio work and also love listening to records in headphones. I’ve always loved listening to recorded music more than listening to it in a live setting. That being said, we aim for detailed work on the records  and then punishing volume live. Our live show is meant to induce other reactions not necessarily felt in the safe space of the headphones experience, like total bodily immersion, fear, tension, etc.

LEO: The live show is meant it be immersive, and in some ways, interactive. I have a short attention span when it comes to live shows. I get bored very easily, and nine out of ten times I’d rather go see a movie than go see a band. So for me the goal with our live shows has always been to put on a show that I would be entertained by, if i were an audience member. It needs to be more than some rockers up on a stage doing their best Rock and Roller routine, or some fucking haircuts hunched over a table, massaging their overpriced analog gear. No offense to any of our friends out there doing their thing, but I’m just fucking bored of the same old show. I need something that wakes me up and makes me a little uncomfortable. That said, our live show is always a work in progress and it’s nowhere near where we’d like it to be. We are working within our means right now, but it’s going to evolve and improve. The recorded work is an entirely different approach. You can’t bottle up the live experience into an album. So we focus on the songcraft, on writing pieces of music that hopefully engage the listener on both on emotional and an intellectual level.

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Picture: @doomsdayjill

Your album was released by an underground label The Flenser, which suits your stuff perfectly I can imagine, but are you personally supporters of the DIY-mentality opposed to being on a major label? How important do you see promotion (and for example touring) when it comes to your music?

SHAUN: All I have to do is look at the amazing roster of artists on The Flenser to know we’re in the right place. As for DIY, it definitely played a part in our live set up, from deliberately booking DIY venues for intimacy and intensity to financing our own multi tiered PA system–which fucked my credit last year–to ensure that every audience would get the exact same punishing experience.

LEO: DIY is everything. It has to be, whether you like it or not. Look around you. The money is gone. It’s been gone. The nineties are over. No one gets a free ride anymore. If you want something to happen you have to get off your ass and do it yourself. You have to tour, you have to self promote, you have to book, manage, everything. We’re very fortunate that a label as hardworking and respected as The Flenser believed in us and gave us an opportunity to be included on their roster, but I don’t think they would have even considered us if they didn’t think we were 100% committed to making this project happen, with or without help.

Thanks for this interview! What are your plans for the rest of the year? Are you already working on a follow-up to your first album, or are you letting it sink in to the audiences first, and see later on which approach to take next?

SHAUN: We’re definitely not waiting. For me the impulse to write is every day, even if I only write out the music idea as a sentence in a notebook. Earlier this year, we started work on an EP, much of which is now finished. Likely that won’t come out until next year. It contains much of what was learned while making End Position but also has instrumentation and textural range that was excluded from writing that album. We feel an Ep is an opportunity to experiment with sound while in between larger ideas, so it’s not indicative of what to expect from the second album.

LEO: Thank you for your interest! We’ve got a lot of things in the steamer right now. Realistically, the proper full length follow up to End Position won’t be coming out until 2018, but we’ve got a few other things in the works, so 2017 definitely won’t be a quiet year for us. We’re also planning on touring again in the spring, so there’s that to look forward to.

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Zeroh – Tinnitus

(Hit+Run, 2016)

The global live-screen-printing and musical collective Hit+Run has been putting out interesting stuff for many years, including names like Crimekillz, Kate Mo$$, Kutmah, Skrapez and Zackey Force Funk. The name has been to me synonymous with originality, creativity and DIY-mentality, and this album by the Los Angeles native Zeroh is certainly no different.

The music on this album ranges from Madlib-like beat-crafting to full on cacophony. Half of the songs don’t even have a beat, and dance somewhere between rhythmic Ambient and Noise (and Industrial Music if you will), and some have very traditional but minimalistic Hip Hop vibes to them. Always gritty, noisy, full of effects and experimental (playful) as hell, the production of this album often brings to my mind a mixture of Ka’s “Honor Killed The Samurai” and Gonjasufi’s “Callus”. Still, this stuff stands originally on its own, and shows the awesome skills of Zeroh as a producer.

The rapping gets the same treatment as the music, when it comes to heavy effects and experimental production. Besides that, Zeroh is one of those MCs who uses his voice like an instrument for jamming, and his verses are thoughtful and cool as fuck. He likes to play with his voice, changing style even many times in a sentence, wacky as shit, but still sounding totally in control. At times he sounds dark and serious, and at times he sounds cartoonish and comical. Which fits his style of writing lyrics perfectly. The symbiosis of the two put you in a concentrated yet psychedelic and sometimes even spiritual zone. The previous comparison with Gonjasufi often applies to the vocals as well, but there is so much more going on here. Zeroh is in a league of his own. The only two guests on this album, The Koreatown Oddity and Low Leaf, blend splendidly with the rest of the material.

This album is a treasure-chest of lyrical and vocal imaginativeness and hazy musical experimentality. Given the apparent skills of Zeroh as a producer of music (besides being an awesome rapper), I would have liked to hear a bit more variety on the beats (such as more drum-beats), but then again the stuff on this album works great as a whole, and does justice to the awesome cover-picture (or vice versa). If you are into experimental Hip Hop and interesting textures of sound, check this totally impressive album out. And while you’re at it, check out the collaboration-album between Zeroh and Jeremiah Jae, “Holy Smoke”, as well. Pure bliss.

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Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand – Sucht & Ordnung

(WKN, 2016)

At this point of his artistic career, Albin Julius probably is not that interested in answering questions about his musical past under the name Der Blutharsch. After the pretty much total audial transformation of the band (altho certain vibes and attitudes came along for the ride from the previous incarnation of course), the audiences of the group have now been accustomed to the Psychedelic Rock version of Albin’s musical visions, and there is no doubt he will continue to change and progress his musical identity in the future. But right now, we have this new album in our hands.

“Zucht und Ordnung” in German means “Discipline and Order”, a term associated with for example Christian or Fascist authority in society. “Sucht und Ordnung” however means “Addiction and Order”, and as an album stands for quite different mentalities, in its improvised and jamming ways. Recorded live at Pure Sound Studio (Vienna), this album features three songs and about 30 minutes of intense Psychedelic Rock the Der Blutharsch way we have become so familiar with in the recent years. Of course there is s certain discipline and order present in the song structures and performances of the recent material of the band, but nevertheless this is fucking psychedelia, which stands for total assimilation of control.

The album lifts off calmly with moody oriental melodies from the reverberated guitar, backed by ride-cymbals and the ever-expanding synth. But when the drums and basses kick off, I am surprised to hear a Surf Rock beat from the drums, together with an extremely heavy bass jamming sweet melodies with the already jamming distorted guitars. As the song progresses the synths change colour and texture like splashing various paints on a canvas, making me wanna be high as fuck on weed while listening to this song. After a break-like calm sequence the song ends in a sweet rocking beat and high guitar solos, which together with the organ-like synth makes me feel very classic seventies. This is the exact alchemical stuff the godlike albums of old were made from. This band gets it.

The second song starts off more heavy, not quite Doomy but nearly. Here were are introduced to the powerful majestic and almost preaching vocals of Marthynna. There has always been real dominance and sweetness at the same time in her voice, and this song is no different. However, if I was a bit surprised about the Surf Rock drumming in the first song, I am most definitely lifted off my chair when the song turns into a cool intense blast-beat and tremolo-riff driven Blackened kaleidoscope, before sinking again into slower currents. This was something I did quite not see coming from this band, not yet anyway.

The third song is a bit longer than the previous two, starting out really slow, before kicking off with a pretty minimalistic damping guitar riff and steady rocking drum-beat backed with a cool organ-sound and heavily phasing synths. Very classic Stoner (or just ancient Progressive) stuff here, staring at the night sky in the desert high on mushrooms. Marthynna’s chanting vocals fit the song again very well, as do the electrified howling effects taking the hypnotic riffing further into the mind’s eye. The song starts to fade towards the end only making an intense comeback, giving me spiralling chills down my spine. A very steady and well made song ending the album in extremely positive vibes.

In this age of music softwares one tends to forget the awesome power and magic of organic music. This album is a must for all fans of the previous albums of the band (especially after the musical “transformation”), and for all fans of hypnotic, psychedelic and hallucinatory jamming music in general. This album is my personal favourite among the band’s discography of the last five years.

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Gonjasufi – Callus

(Warp Records, 2016)

Gonjasufi came to my attention in 2010 with his Warp debut “A Sufi And A Killer”, and after 2012’s “MU.ZZ.LE” I’ve been very eager to hear more of the Sufi’s deeply personal and original, melancholic experimental psychedelia. It took about four years but now the next chapter of Gonjasufi is out, taking his music even into more darkly psychedelic and intimate directions.

The music of Gonjasufi has always been rooted in Hip Hop culture, the Sand Diego scene to be exact, and he has done collaborations with awesome artists such as Flying Lotus, The Gaslamp Killer and The Bug. The minimalist and low-fi atmospheres of his sampling and instrumentations, which are usually a blend of urban and almost shamanistic vibes, have been as individual as his voice, which is hard to compare to anyone else, and once familiar with it you will definitely recognise it.

When it comes to musical atmospheres and of course his voice, this album can be immediately identified as Gonjasufi, but there are a few new things he is trying out here. I’m getting almost Lynchian feelings of grey scenes of nightly California, intoxicating and hot under the silhouettes of waving palm trees, with flashing neon lights here and there telling of the liveliness of these grainy and strongly contrasted inner soundscapes. The term “noir” comes to my mind constantly. The heavy and slow very organic drumbeats mixed with distorted and reverberated guitars and basses often give an almost Doom-like feeling. On other times the classic Punk influences are very clear and function perfectly with the rest of the musical styles encapsulated on the album.

There are actually not many purely Electronic-sounding moments in these songs, and when they do appear, they are glitchy or vintage-sounding and delightfully noisy, which fits the overall atmosphere of the album nicely. Parts and samples of Ethnic music add to the psychedelic agenda of the album and the persona of the artist himself. The at the same time sensitive and strong vocals are again put through filters of strong reverbs and distortions, making them sound almost like samples of some weird movies, as the music is also highly cinematic in nature.

The whole experience is actually pretty 3D cartoon-like and very dreamy, with each of the 19 songs displaying a different scene strong in mental aesthetics.

If you are a fan of Experimental Hip Hop (with a strong emphasis on low-fi and DIY-mentalities), and especially of cinematic music, you should definitely check this album out. And if you are already familiar with Gonjasufi and liked his previous stuff, this album will not disappoint you. One of the best ones this year.

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Street Sects – End Position

(The Flenser, 2016)

Street Sects (from Austin, Texas) was formed in 2013 by vocalist Leo Ashline and producer Shaun Ringsmuth, and released a few singles in 2014, before creating this their first full-length, a masterpiece which appeared unannounced to many from nowhere, sinking its sharpened claws into minds not disgusted by styles such as Electropunk, Industrial, Noise and Power Electronics.

I gotta admit I wasn’t that convinced about the genius of the band after having heard a couple of songs from this album, but couple of days later, after delving deeper into the violent and chaotic alluring world of the album as a whole, I became an adherent of this shit. This stuff is spiritual.

As already mentioned, what you get here is a fierce and quite original mixture of classic Industrial mentality (think of the more aggressive and faster pieces of older Skinny Puppy or Ministry), Punk Rock (or Electro-Punk if you will), and Noise, chemically (psychedelically) combined into an original and fresh end result.

Most of the music consists of samples which could have been gathered from a steel factory of some sorts, put together in an imaginative way. The clanks, thumps, rattles, fizzes, thuds, hisses, bangs, hums and slams are backed up by vicious electronic bass-lines and pounding snares and kicks, rhythms mostly not related to any certain musical style, except Industrial naturally. The grooves of the beats are sometimes childish even, yet working in an extremely convincing way with all the sample-based madness surrounding them.

There are not many clear melodies to be found on this album, as the music relies mostly on the insane cacophony brought by the various sounds and intense beats, but when you do hear them in the form of synth-lines (mostly), they sound beautiful and strong, yet you realize you wasn’t really missing them in the first place. Such is the power of this music.

The vocals are mostly screams through filters of heavy distortion, and they work perfectly with the music. But what gives this stuff a professional feel to it is the vocalists use of clear and melodic singing in the right places, nodding strongly to their influences, but maintaining the aggressive and original feel of the band.

Besides the distorted chaos and aggression, this album is packed with various emotions of sadness, melancholy, hopelessness, self-destruction, hate, disgust and other cool vibes. In fact, without having read the lyrics, I’m betting my head on them being descriptions of resentment, revenge and suicide, making the cover art (artist) a perfect pick for the album.

There are no weak parts on the album, making it a very solid and powerful totality. In this age, after having heard almost everything music has to offer (when it comes to ideas), it is always a pleasure to find someone taking classic pieces from here and some from there and combining them into something that is truly refreshing and moving. That is something we underground music lovers, grown apathetic after years of first being in love with and then disappointed by many powerful styles of music, are always secretly hoping for.

Give this album a chance, and if you get what I’m talking about above, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. This might very well be your favourite album of the year.

The Flenser

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Flowdan – Disaster Piece

(Tru Thoughts, 2016)

After a musical career of about 20 years (as a founding member of the crew Roll Deep among other things), Flowdan stands still strong as one of the most recognisable voices in Grime. After the “Serious Business” Ep and a number of great collaborations with notable producers (such as The Bug) of recent years, the Big Flowdan finally finished work on his new full-length album this year.

The album features 12 songs of quite atmospheric high quality Grime, partly quite minimalistic (and even “safe”) and partly experimental production-wise, but always full of that guaranteed dark and deep Flowdan-feeling.

The production (by Cato, Masro, Swifta Beater, Dexplicit and others) of the riddims relies mostly on a mixture of modern Hip Hop and EDM vibes (mixed with even some Industrial elements) besides the classic Grime-logic when it comes to instrumentation of the synths and drum-beats, with each song consisting of pretty basic and straightforward musical themes (with some songs refreshingly going a bit more progressive than that). Epic orchestrations and percussions colour the etherial and electronic feel of most of the beats, and the overall production and soundscapes of the songs are of much quality and sound professional, altho I would have personally liked to hear a bit more gritty and hard sounds (such as those trademarks of the aforementioned The Bug), which fit Flowdan’s voice and style so well. On the other hand the quite straightforward and articulate feelings of the beats function as a solid whole.

The main emphasis of the album is nevertheless naturally on the voice and deliveries of the man himself, and his strong, deep and dark voice indeed keeps the whole atmosphere of the album intact and unified. The production lets Flowdan speak his mind without too many effects or other gimmicks, which tells of the trust in the abilities and skills of the man, acquired during his many years of involvement in the scene. Two songs also feature old-school friends Manga and Tinchy Stryder (while four songs feature female vox by Animai), but the spotlight is of course on Flowdan.

The lyrics deal mostly with personal and social themes the Grime-way, which are obviously more than familiar to the man due to his  experiences growing up. Flowdan’s lyrics have often been quite dark but very witty, atmospheric, and often straight to the point, fitting this kind of music perfectly. Needless to say, the technical abilities of the man are great as well, making his spitting always a powerful and pleasurable listening experience.

With no clear weak parts in the song-selection, this steady yet much imaginative and always entertaining album is an awesome and much recommended modern look into classic Grime. Honest, hard and simple if you will, but also often complex, emotional and deep. Just like the streets.

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Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

(Third World / Harvest, 2016)

In my case, with “Exmilitary” and “The Money Store”, Death Grips instantly became one of the most exciting new acts out there, blowing my mind with basically every delightfully minimalistic yet psychedelically complex and intense song on these albums. Coming from a background of extreme Punk and Metal as well as oldschool Hip Hop and various styles of Electronic music, the music this trio (consisting of Zach Hill’s percussions, Andy Morin’s electronics, and MC Ride’s vocals) was giving birth to clicked perfectly with my musical tastes. And altho many seemed to find Death Grips to be too “insane” for their membranes, I felt right at home when it came to the multifaceted twisted beats, sounds and rhymes the band was at this point known for.

While “No Love Deep Web” went more synthetic and even etherial in its approach and delivered perhaps a bit more catchy songs compared to the first two, “Government Plates” was a bit too artsy (and in this case boring) for my taste with its large yet kinda weak arsenal of electronic sounds, but then again the instrumental album “Fashion Week” hit my good spot while being mostly electronic in nature as well. In any case, the double album “The Powers That B” has been to many perhaps the pinnacle of the evolution and career of the band, gathering all their past experimentation and honest insanity in eighteen songs.

As the band is no stranger to controversial behaviour such as releasing albums for free online or cancelling tours (and even cancelling a breakup), it has often felt every new Death Grips release is a kind of a miracle to behold. Every time a new album is announced, two things usually come to mind: Is it really gonna happen and when, plus are they gonna top or overdo or reinvent themselves yet again?

With great pleasure I can say this album is not by any means a disappointment. All the deranged vocal fury, the often overwhelming yet controlled rhythmic chaos, all the right usage of weird minimalistic or massive psychedelic electronics at the right places still holds up to the standards of the band, going even further in many areas.

The album has many similarities with the previous album “Jenny Death” when it comes to repetitive lines and swirling intense soundscapes, but this album is not by any means as chaotic as the first song which became available, “Hot Head”, hinted. In fact most of the songs have a very certain personal atmosphere and quality to them, making this album perhaps for many a bit more pleasant listen music-wise when compared to some of the band’s previous releases.

Still, pleasant is not a word that first comes into most listeners minds when describing the atmospheres of this album, as it is again filled with very intense almost hallucinatory parts and scenes, reminiscent of bad psychedelic trips. Meaning the band will most likely not gain new fans with this release, but that has probably never been their main agenda anyway.

“Giving Bad People Good Ideas” takes a pretty comical spoken sample and turns it into a synth/instrument, industrializes a very Black Metallic riff and a blast-beat, throws in some weird electronics, and tops it with Ride’s furious shouting rhymes. What a great Death Gripping way to start the album. “Hot Head” switches between a section which could be the most chaotic and Breakcore-like shit ever heard on a Death Grips record, and a calmer slower more vocal-driven part, making it a very personal song as well.

“Spikes” is a very classic Death Grips sounding piece with glitchy fuzzy electronics and whipping beats. “Warping” takes likewise a very traditional approach (considering the band’s standards) consisting mainly of slow and groovy dizzy straightforward jamming, being still a total banger. “Eh” is a very airy yet energetic song with a classic IDM-mentality (in my opinion) and thin snapping beats, making me think of even Aphex Twin, while the vocals are clear and audible, full of cool little ideas of performance.

“Bubbles Buried In This Jungle” has some fuzzy noisy wobbly synths working together with a Trap-like beat and vocoder-parts, making it perhaps a very “current” (considering the trends of the music world) song. “Trash” has a fizzing and airy electronic feel to it in that “Get Got” and “Artificial Death In The West” kinda way, with the addition of massive noisy brasses. Cool.

“Houdini” again offers musically nothing new to the band’s repertuare, but sounds like metal wires moving and tightening and snapping in a very reverberated hall, functioning with its cool lyrics as a very cool atmospheric breather at this point in the album. “BB Poison” has rubbery, bubbling and zapping synth and drum sounds spiced with rocking organic guitar parts. Once more nothing too special but sound-wise very cool. “Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood” picks up the pace being a vigorous groovy piece full of cool details in all areas.

“Ring A Bell” brings back the heavy and phasing, flangy and twangy electric guitars sampled in various cool ways, familiar from previous songs like “On GP”, making it the most organic song on the album sound-wise.

“80808” is synth-sound driven ominous and eerie song full of calm fear and heavy aggression, before the title song “Bottomless Pit” finishes the album in style. The heavy noisy accelerating synths mixed with the steady energetic beat and tireless vocals make this song sound like an IndyCar speeding on the edges of a hurricane with Punk Rock blasting from its speakers.

In general, the soundscapes and mixing of the album is again pretty much along the same lines with the previous releases, with electronics ranging from heavy fuzziness to thin airiness, with pounding or snapping drum-sounds and various effects in the vocals, from multiple layers of well-managed chaos to stripped minimalism, perhaps this time around improving from past gritty rawness into a more thoughtful and better-produced whole.

While “The Powers That B” featured songs with some really personal lyrics from vocalist MC Ride, “Bottomless Pit” is possibly the most personal album lyric-wise the band has in their catalogue. All the mental delirious ranting rhyming insanity Ride spits and shouts is still here, only this time he often opens the door to his inners (and also to the band’s inners) more than before. Or at least that’s how it seems.

Altho personal-sounding, all the songs are pretty much equally good in my opinion, making it hard to pinpoint any favourites or clear highlights on the album, making this a steady release of high quality. While taking the organic freshness of “Jenny Death”, “Bottomless Pit” combines all the best elements of “The Money Store” and “No Love Deep Web” and adds a few new brilliant ideas, making this a solid, strong, familiar, high quality Death Grips album, and I’m bound to have many intimate and delirious moments with it. Loving it, as always.

Death Grips