Album Review: Death Grips’ ‘The Money Store’

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Death Grips makes music at once confrontational and fascinating on "The Money Store." (Photo by Jonny Magowan)

For as long as there has been hip-hop, there have been weird experimental offshoots. Industrial hip-hop is one of them — in fact, it’s probably the most enduring, though it’s never been widely practiced or particularly well-known.

Death Grips is changing that, at least a little bit. After releasing the cacophonous free mixtape “Exmilitary” last year (download it here), the Sacramento, Calif., trio this week returned with its first official album, “The Money Store” (Epic). It’s a collection of jarring songs packed with jumbles of explosive rhythm, synthesizer blare and sharp, barked vocals. “Abrasive” barely begins to describe the music, but there’s something mesmerizing about it, too.

Vocalist Stefan Burnett huffs and puffs his way through the rapid-fire verses as if he’s rhyming while also working a heavy bag or, to stretch the metaphor too far, bobbing and weaving around the barrage of loose-fanbelt synths on opener “Get Got.” He sounds triumphant when he announces, “I’m in your area,” over bright waves of shuddering synthesizers and a snapping staccato beat on “Hacker,” and deadly serious over blasts of pulsing machine-like noise on “System Blower,” which does, in fact, sound like it could blow your system.

Zach Hill and Andy Morin are responsible for that. The production duo creates densely layered dystopian soundscapes that can verge on claustrophobic, with bass so deep it lurks on the periphery of your consciousness and gnashing electronic sounds that suggest robot street combat.

Death Grips, probably isn’t for everyone — the music can verge on confrontational, which is a turn-off if you just want something to nod along to. If you’re up for a challenge, though, “The Money Store” is one of the most fascinating hip-hop albums in years.

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