Album Review : Death Grips - Gmail and the Restraining Orders (2019)
On June 21st 2019, Death Grips were invited to participate to a celebratory weekend-long takeover of NTS radio by Warp Records, who were celebrating their 30th anniversary. The band “premiered” a 28 minutes mix of previously unheard material called Gmail and the Restraining Orders, which is perhaps their most difficult and puzzling release to date. And I’m including their previous, frantic 2017 mix Steroids (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Gabber) in that statement. I don’t fucking know what this music means or what to do with it. But it’s on us to figure it out, now.
Gmail and the Restraining Orders was officially premiered on June 21st, but it wasn’t previously unheard of. The mix was played prior to their performances for The Powers That B tour in 2015. There’s no real discernible song or structure on it. It’s 28 minutes of noise rock chaos lead by Zach Hill’s arrythmic, unreal drumming. MC Ride barks nonsense lyrics that seem to echo the fragmented, idiosyncratic thoughts of someone on drugs and Flatlander is chopping his voice to bits with his sequencer, adding chirping synth in between syllables to further the dislocation effect.
But it’s not noise for the sake of being noise. I couldn’t shake the impression that Ride and Flatlander were attacking each other on Gmail and the Restraining Orders, like a protagonist fighting his own mind and periodically losing control over his thoughts. Ride keeps addressing someone and at some point starts repeating “Speak to me.” He’s not alone up there. There’s also progression in the mix. It’s not just primordial noise soup and nonsensical thoughts. Gmail and the Restraining Orders accelerates and becomes gradually less cluttered with cuts and chirps. The guys are going somewhere with it. It’s just not clear where exactly.
Gmail and the Restraining Orders is a musical self-portrait. It’s a glitchy, frantic, belligerent soundscape that doesn’t necessarily have a logical beginning or end. I don’t believe it has any mystery or greater meaning to unfold like you could find on The Money Store or No Love Deep Web. It’s just something extra they decided to give their fans. A trippy studio jam that reflects the band’s aggressive, confrontational personality and not much else. It was also a gift for the 30th anniversary of Warp Records. It’s just kind of cool to have. Let’s not overthink this one, folks.