Last night, Death Grips released a “soundtrack” called Fashion Week (download it here). Since Death Grips is supposed to no longer be an active project, the very existence of this record has seemed to confuse people, but before you grow outraged at the idea of the group coming back from retirement to make a soundtrack for Fashion Week, take a second to think about how absurd that sounds for this specific band — and how not absurd it would sound for a lot of other acts.
Fashion Week isn’t exactly the norm in way of Death Grips releases; rapper Stefan Burnett isn’t heard atop these knotty, cinematic electronic tracks. The fact that you could envision these tracks blasting on the catwalks of “edgy” young designers in Paris or Milan is clearly besides the point — that’s neither what this, nor Death Grips, is about. The Sacramento trio has a history of not doing what people expect. But it’s funny, because to me, Fashion Week just seems like Death Grips getting ready for what they told people to expect in a way that’s just cryptic enough to seem off-plan.
Upon announcing their sudden breakup (and NIN tour cancellation) via napkin in July, the members of the mercurial art-rap project said their “upcoming double album The Powers That B will still be delivered worldwide later this year via Harvest/Third Worlds Records.” 2014 obviously came and went with no The Powers That B, but in December there was a new single, titled “Inanimate Sensation,” which was supposedly off Jenny Death, the second half of The Powers That B. (The first half of the double album is expected to be Niggas On The Moon , released impromptu online last June and featuring Björk.)
I’m not saying Fashion Week is Jenny Death (there’s no “Inanimate Sensation” on it, for one), but the two works are clearly related: the track names on Fashion Week serve as an acrostic message that spells out Jenny Death When. Jenny Death when? Listeners are wondering exactly that, and with Fashion Week, Death Grips seem to be teasing out Jenny Death‘s release date even more, promoting it in a way that gives them all the power. A move like this is not above a group that, as former label Epic said in their statement announcing they’d dropped Death Grips, allows “marketing and publicity stunts [to] trump the actual music.”
Perhaps the release of Fashion Week now is a purposeful effort to throw listeners off the trail, seeing as Amazon listings for The Powers That B — with a release date of February 10 — started making the rounds over the weekend. (Death Grips’ publicist has not yet returned Flavorwire’s request for clarification.)
Death Grips are known for releasing music without much warning online; it’s precisely why they were dropped from Epic in 2012. “Death Grips was and always has been a conceptual art exhibition anchored by sound and vision,” their break-up napkin read towards the bottom, where all the words had started to smush together. “Above and beyond a ‘band.'” There are no rules for a band like this, which is part of what makes them so fascinating to watch. Instead of raising our eyebrows at a post-breakup release that’s not exactly what we expected, we should sit back and enjoy the show while it lasts. Hey, maybe Robert Pattinson will make another appearance.