Welcome back from spring break, students. We here at Radio 1190 are probably just as stoked as you to go back to school. Sadly, we need to switch back into school mode now that we only have a few weeks left in the semester. So sit down, put on some ambient study music, strap in, and get back to the books. And when you need a break, tune into 1190 AM or radio1190.org and hear these awesome albums we have spinning in rotation this week.
It’s no secret that the mysterious hip-hop experimentalists Death Grips have been making headlines. Since the release of the now cult-favorite debut mixtape Exmilitary in 2011, the trio has been turning the heads of critics and music lovers alike. The group released a string of albums that broke almost every boundary in hip hop imaginable. From the incredibly abrasive, yet catchy The Money Store to the sparse and minimal No Love Deep Web to the hypnotic Government Plates, Death Grips made a huge impact on experimental music in just less than five years.
Come 2014, the group announced a break up with the release of the first disc of a final release, The Powers that B. The first disc was a dense and dizzying Bjork sample-heavy set of tracks entitled Niggas on the Moon. Each track is fast, frantic and incredibly cathartic. Put next to earlier releases, Niggas on the Moon is undoubtedly the group’s most experimental record. After almost a full year of anticipation for the second disc and final release, Jenny Death, it was anonymously released on the internet via a leak. It stunned the music world. The album is much more spread out and accessible than the first disc, but the utilization of electric guitar, via Tera Melos guitarist Nick Reinhart, makes the record almost sound like rap rock. Tracks such as “Turned Off” and “On GP” are strangely anthemic with the rock instrumentation, especially the latter which has a very melancholic and self-destructive vibe to it.
Undoubtedly, the two records together are a strange pairing of extremely experimental and abrasive. Jenny Death may seem strange at first, but after repeated listens, contrast incredibly well. The Powers that B perfectly encompass the punk energy and ethos that Death Grips is known for, while pleasing fans of the group’s experimental and accessible work. After repeated listens, its very apparent that with this release Death Grips have solidified a spot at the top of the experimental music totem pole, but have also given a magnum opus to the world. The Powers That B is Radio 1190’s CD of the Month for April.
In a indie-rock landscape where garage punk is king, lately there has been a big influence of post-punk. Off one of the largest and most influential garage-rock record labels, Castle Face, Male Gaze‘s newest release Gale Maze is a blistering set of post-punk tracks. Much like their contemporaries on Lolipop Records, The Corners, Male Gaze adds in a touch of neo-psychedelic influences, a la The Black Angels, into a signature style of post-punk. But unlike the aforementioned artists, the band plays at a blistering, break-neck pace that could only be compared to the chugging and grinding energy of Thee Oh Sees.
The set of tracks is incredibly short and fast, making the only gripe of this record the length. Sadly, because the group goes at such a quick pace, the songs don’t seem fleshed out enough to really show off musicianship. Undoubtedly, this is a great, cold and violent record for your phonograph needle to rip through to contrast the warm and gentle springtime air outside.
Omaha-based singer-songwriter Simon Joyner has been making records for a long time. In his huge discography, this folk singer has only a few records to his name that have received national recognition. On his newest release, Grass, Branch and Bone, Joyner cleans up and beefs-up his production, but keeps his signature style of Americana strange and sparse. Much like his contemporaries Bill Callahan and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Joyner keeps his instrumentation minimal to guitar, upright bass, some percussion and, the highlight, his vocals. Much like Vic Chesnutt or Townes Van Zandt, the vocals are raspy and worn, but the wordplay and delivery is homey, honest and poetic. It depicts a surreal vision of the American west.
On this record, Joyner also utilizes styles from bluegrass and old-school folk country in a way where it doesn’t sound too cheesy or outdated. Really, where Joyner strides is his honest delivery in his music and lyrics, splayed with vulnerabilities and fears. When this is used in his music, Joyner’s sounds much more genuine and authentic than his more mainstream contemporaries.
James Calvet is Radio 1190’s music director.