The Death Grips cling tightly to mysterious reputation with new album

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The first surprise album of 2015 has come upon us. The Death Grips’ new album Fashion Week randomly dropped without any previous notice or press coverage. This surprise release –– especially coming after their supposed disbandment in mid-2014 –– causes us to wonder: Is this really the end of the Death Grips?

An exclusively instrumental record, Fashion Week seems to be an announcement of the completion of their previously announced final record, The Powers that B. Each of the tracks on the new album are titled “Runway J,” “Runway E” and so on, repeating “Runway” with a different letter at the end. It ultimately spells “JENNY DEATH WHEN,” an allusion to the second disc of The Powers that B, Jenny Death, which has yet to be released.

This is good news for die-hard and casual Death Grips fan alike. It’s deeply impressive to see a group coming out with music even after it has been disbanded for a large portion of 2014 and the entirety of 2015 as we know it. This penultimate record seems to be a carefully crafted clue into the minds of the Death Grips. With Fashion Week, they are sending the message that they are a group of fluidity, unable to be confined to the bounds of heavy rapping or musical genres.

The air of mystery that follows the Death Grips embeds itself deeply within Fashion Week. It’s a record that almost sounds like it should be set to a runway, with each track flaunting an unparalleled balance of brashness and composure. All of the “Runway” tracks blend into one almost other-worldly tune, taking on the bizarre nature that the Death Grips have happily embraced.

“Runway J” starts out in a fast-paced manner — a swirling journey through futuristic space, which is followed by the slow and trodding “Runway E,” a very house-inspired riff. It’s far less clanking and pounding than any of the Death Grips’ previous releases, and “Runway D” is even a little bit catchy, with an almost hummable tune. It concludes with the spindly synthesizers of “Runway N,” a manic rambling of bizarre guitar solos and a mess of sporadic drum machine beats.

Fashion Week is a divergent album, different from any other Death Grips record, with each song coming in as a complex progression. Even without any of Stefan Burnett’s powerful vocals, the album manages to maintain a gritty darkness and imaginative sound. This is a hopeful rekindling of the nearly burnt-out flame that is the Death Grips. Perhaps they haven’t finished with us just yet.

Contact Kayla Oldenburg at [email protected].