Photographs by Bryan Sheffield

Photographs by Bryan Sheffield

MC Ride, Flatlander and Zach Hill wished us a very Merry Christmas in their usual, gritty-as-sandpaper-against-your-eardrums Death Grips way. Of course, this means that hip hop’s most instantly recognizable sound returned as a total surprise, screaming and clanging its way into the world, begging to be heard within minutes of the release of Government Plates on November 13, 2013. Death Grips seemingly exist in a hellish void, absent from any easily recognizable influences or contemporaries. Government Plates reaches extremes and pulls it off with aplomb. Assaultive rhythms and wrathful vocals inflict maximum damage, whilst its “softer” tracks run frantic circles around the eardrums at light speed.

Government Plates opens with, “You may think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it’s your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat.” Dylan references aside, Death Grips plunges straight into familiar territory, “My entrance, hijacked no questions asked, stretch you on like latex mask.” The stream of consciousness darkness of MC Ride is business as usual here, remaining as powerful as ever. Flatlander threatens to swallow everything around him with alternately buzzing and biting synthesizers. This is the Death Grips formula working exactly as it should. Later, “This Is Violence Now” chops up every distinguishable sound into a soup of noise before slimming it down to bare bones in the middle of the track. Between Flatlander and Zach Hill’s performances here, the song evokes the image of Aphex Twin playing in a ’90s London nightclub.

“Birds”, the track the band released in August 2013, returns he re, unchanged. Tinny, chainsaw synths and simple percussion underscore MC Ride’s strangely circular, childlike lyrics. It is perhaps the most vulnerable we will see Death Grips. Truthfully, how much more direct can one be than, “I’ve got a bluebird, it might die, it got wetted, I stayed dry”? The track alternates between ear-splitting insect synths with MC Ride’s roar, and twinkling tones with a pleading, unstable toddler. This experiment in extreme duality within a track is a success here, where the softer sections are not tedious, as tension builds waiting for the signature MC Ride explosion.

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— , December 31, 2013    1 Comment

Suuns

As the dust of Canadian Music Week settles, Montreal’s unique brand of shoegaze and psychedelia departs town in the form of Suuns. Releasing their first LP, Zeroes QC, back in 2011, they’ve been looked to for an equally eclectic mix of electronic and rock sounds in their follow-up. On March 4, Suuns released Images du Futur, their most accomplished effort, produced by Jace Lasek of The Besnard Lakes. With a spray of noise rock laid out across their expanse of hypnotic rhythms and murky vocals, Suuns remained a band capable of keeping control of their sound, no matter how chaotic, in forming one of the critical Canadian releases this year.

I managed to catch up with Joseph Yarmush, Suuns’ guitarist, as he navigated the frantic streets of Montreal, before heading to Toronto. He discussed the nature of the band’s unique sound, enlightened me on some of the noises sprawled across the new album, and recalled the story of the band’s harrowing encounter in the Portugal club scene.

Anthony Boire: Coming into Images du Futur after Zeroes QC, how did you change your songwriting?

Joe Yarmush: A little bit, I guess. I think it all just got a little bit better. All those songs [on Zeroes QC], they were kind of roadtested, before we had recorded them. So we had been playing them a lot live. So we kind of knew them inside and out. With Images, we basically started from scratch. We recorded a bunch of songs that had never been played live. It’s just a different thing. You’re not really sure, what will work, and what won’t. It’s tiring, because you’re just in there for hours making sure everything sounds the way you want it to.

Anthony: How did you come up with the riff in “2020”? It’s got some noise elements but somehow definitely gets stuck in your head.

Joe: That one wasn’t me, but if you’re just playing one note on the bass you’re pretty free to do anything. [Laughs] I mean, I was doing a lot of slide. Like on “Pie IX”, live I always used a slide even though on the album we didn’t. Originally it was called “Son of Pie IX”, I think. That was the working title [for “2020”].

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— , March 25, 2013    1 Comment