So as you may recall from last week’s edition, one of my vows was to listen to more new music. I actually followed up on my own resolution immediately and listened to two new releases last week pretty intensively. As I mentioned, I was pretty bummed at the lack of new music that I listened to in 2014. Even in our 2014 Year in Review episode of 9ES we all had pretty slim pickings for new music. So I started off 2015 by listening to brand new music. How new? Both releases I checked came out in the first week of January, that’s right, these came out in the past 12 days. I listened to Understudy EP by Låpsley and the surprise instrumental album Fashion Week by Death Grips.

fashion-week-coverSo Death Grips were always on the periphery for me. They’ve always been that noisey, industrial hip-hop act where a crazy man screams raps at me that I couldn’t really understand since the music was so loud and he was so screamy. That being said I always kind of dug them. If the sentence “noisey industrial hip-hop act where a crazy man screams raps” seems interesting to you, you will also probably dig them. They are basically that sentence in the best way possible. If anything about that sentence is off putting to you, maybe take a pass on most of their work. However, if the only part of that sentence that is off putting is “a crazy man screams raps” then maybe Fashion Week is for you. Why? Because it is instrumental. Now, I don’t know if that means that it’s the work of just Andy Morin (programming) and Zach Hill (drums) or if MC Ride has stepped in to some production role on this disk, but there are no classic Death Grips vocals anywhere on this disk.

I quite like it. The production quality is all over the place and there’s not a whole lot of polish anywhere to be found on the noisey drums and dark beats being hammered out in Fashion Week. That’s probably a pretty distinct choice though since I think the band is best known for it’s raw sound and performances, an over produced “clean” work would be out of place.

Then there’s the confusing matter of how this record even happened in the first place. If you believe the band (and you should probably take everything they do with a grain of salt since they’re self-admitted performance artists and who knows if this whole thing isn’t just a performance piece about manipulating an intense online fanbase), they’ve been broken up since July 2nd (from Pitchfork):deathgrips

In summary: “Death Grips is over, all shows cancelled, we’re still releasing a double album.” Communicated the way this information should always be communicated; on a napkin. So let’s talk about this double album for a second. The set is called The Powers That B and is comprised of two parts. The first part is called Niggas on the Moon and already came out (about a month before they broke up). The second part was apparently not completed yet. So, they broke up and were still working on the second part of a double album titled Jenny Death. Ok, weird, like maybe cancel your shows and just work on finishing you started, right? Sure, I guess. Then, last week, Fashion Week comes out. This is a full length instrumental album that is not Jenny Death. So, they broke up, but they’re still together to finish an album and oh they also did this full length instrumental album in the meantime. Not bad for a band that is “over.” Here’s the first track, “Runway J”:

It’s referred to as a “Full Length Soundtrack” but there’s no indication that this is actually the soundtrack to anything. Add to that the fact that the letters of the album (each track is named “Runway” then a letter, like J, E, N, etc.) spell out JENNY DEATH WHEN and the whole things gets even more convoluted. Releasing an entire album just to hype the release of your album? That’s pretty out there for viral marketing. Everyone assumes they’re talking about New York Fashion week, but there’s a lot of Fashion Weeks out there, maybe this is next level trolling and they’re playing their fans like fiddles.

Anyways, whatever the case is it’s our gain. Fashion Week is a really good noisey hard album with a full solid sound and the clashing drums that Death Grips are familiar with. If, like me, you found the aggressive stylings of MC Ride made it difficult to get into the band, Fashion Week is much more approachable since it’s an instrumental release. Great stuff. Oh and best of all you don’t have to take my word for it or download it illegally, the whole thing is offered free (streaming and download) by the band over here.

lapsley_understudyThe next thing I picked up that was brand new was a release from Låpsley who, despite the a-ring, is an artist from the UK and not Sweden. I guess it’s a style choice to look more Swedish since her real name is Holly Lapsley Fletcher. Is looking more Swedish important in electronic music? Maybe.

Listening to the four tracks on this EP I can understand why Låpsley might want to be mistaken for a person with more Nordic background. I can also understand why an early January release makes a lot of sense. This ambient style music is very soft and dreamlike while still being very sparse and cold. Think maybe like a more ambient version of Chet Faker’s more melodic tracks? With much less of a supporting backbeat. It reminds me distinctly of something else that is on the tip of my tongue that I can’t quite place.These songs could easily be a soundtrack to watching the Aurora Borealis in Greenland or something. For 16 minutes. Sadly at only four tracks it’s hard to get a sense of whether or not Låpsley is a one trick pony or not. Also, she employs deep distorted vocals (that are confirmed below to be her) on almost every track as supporting vocals. It’s a neat trick but I’m not really sure it needs to be on every track. Here’s the first track “Falling Short”:

I really enjoy the tracks Låpsley puts on display here, especially given the recent cold snap in Montreal. Undertone has been the unofficial soundtrack to my trek to the bus stop most mornings these past few days. Counting this EP and her two previous tracks (Station and Painter (Valentine)) she seems to be working towards a full length album hopefully soon. I’m looking forward to seeing what she brings to a full studio album.

Update, Låpsley confirms that the backing distorted vocals are also indeed her:

I’d recommend both of these albums for very different reasons. Either way, I’m going to try and listen to at least 1 one or two new releases a month in 2015 to challenge myself as a music fan and relay the results to you.  Let’s see how I do.

Keith does all sorts of things here on, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.

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