Death Grips — Year Of The Snitch
After a long tease, including the release of multiple advance singles, California aggro-rap unit Death Grips finally drop their sixth full-length album Year Of The Snitch. This extremely polarising, high-profile group continues to defy easy classification while simultaneously wielding a very distinct, trademarked sonic arsenal. I know Death Grips when I hear it, but I'll be damned if I can tell you precisely what's in the brew — a perfect illustration of the lack of utility in labels like "electronic music." The band's debut mixtape, Exmilitary was a jarring shock to the senses, and each subsequent release has contained its share of surprises while still retaining some familiarity.
The first thing I notice about Year Of The Snitch is that it feels like the group's most polished effort to date. I've always been a fan of the Death Grips production aesthetic. The mix of MC Ride's frantic, shouted vocal style and the pristine, clear digital instrumentation is unique and extremely effective. Ride's delivery is varied, shifting between calm, confident refrains, high energy speedy verses and outright mania often at the drop of a hat. Lyrically, Death Grips remains utterly impenetrable, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't know what he's saying; I don't care what he's saying; as far as I'm concerned, Ride's voice is just another instrument — the same approach I take to extreme metal genres.
Instrumentation-wise, Year Of The Snitch doesn't throw too many curveballs. The material is off-kilter, and as far from traditional song structuring as any of the group's past records, but feels tighter and more finely honed. Synths, guitars, and even chopped vocal samples act as lead instruments, with everything anchored around Zac Hill's relentless drumming. The album's total running time is 37 minutes &mdashl; with only Government Plates coming in a touch shorter at 35:42 — and not a single moment is wasted. Year Of The Snitch explodes right out of the gates with "Death Grips Is Online," speedy, distortion-heavy banger, and the record doesn't waste any time as it jumps from track-to-track. The brevity of a few tracks, like "The Horn Section" and "Shitshow," could almost be mistaken for the abrupt change-ups which often occur in Death Grips songs.
Despite the unconventional nature of the group, Year Of The Snitch is the most accessible effort in the Death Grips catalogue. The abbrasive edges have been smoothed quite a bit — though they remain intact, especially in the raging fury of "The Fear." Taken as a whole, Year Of The Snitch feels much easier to recommend to potential fans than efforts like The Powers That B or No Love Deep Web, without skimping on what makes the group distinct and compelling. Be it the steady groove of "Black Paint," the irreverence of "Hahaha" or the glitched-out frenzy of "Streaky," Death Grips put together one of the best entries in their discography to date.
Some fans may be disappointed with this record's lack of all-out intensity and rage. While Death Grips are far from top 40 pop music, their material has become more accessible over the years. I take it as a sign of a band maturing and evolving its sound; they still know how to crank the distortion and get real mad, they're just a lot more refined and selective about how and when they do it. If your preference is for the band's older records, then I think you'll be a disappointed with Year Of The Snitch, whereas I think it may be their best work yet and I really appreciate the nuances they've added to their sound. Year Of The Snitch feels like the group's most complete album to date.
A polarising group — drawing almost as much ire for their fanbase's pretention as for their own antics — to say the least, Death Grips have dropped another album that is sure to elicit a lot of discussion. The second shortest record in the group's discography, Year Of The Snitch is chock-full of notable tracks and doesn't overstay its welcome. Where existing fans may lament a certain degree of restraint shown on this record, newcomers can get a very good sampling of Death Grips without the sonic abrasion of other records and can proceed from there. This is very controlled chaos, an album with great repeat listening value and already among my favourite releases of the year.
Release date: June 22nd, 2018
Record label: Third Worlds
MC Ride — vocals
Zach Hill — drums, production, vocals
Andy Morin — keyboards, production
DJ Swamp — turntables
Justin Chancellor — bass
Lucas Abela — electronics, noise
Andrew Adamson — spoken word intro (track 9)
- Death Grips Is Online
- Black Paint
- Linda's In Custody
- The Horn Section
- Little Richard
- The Fear
Published: June 27th, 2018.