Tracing the dysfunctional musical ancestry of the abrasive Cali punk trio
Sacramento hellraisers Death Grips have a habit of pissing people off. From leaking their second album No Love Deep Web last year and repeatedly cancelling shows, to their daring integration of electronica, hip-hop, industrial and psychedelic experimentalism, they are spectacularly abrasive and impossible to predict. As their new album Government Plates is released, it's becoming commonplace for critics and fans to kiss the rings of MC Ride, Zach Hill and Flatlander, but forget to show recognition and love to their dysfunctional musical ancestry. We celebrate those who bled extreme weirdness and balls-out innovation below.
With its raspy clatters and reverbed prangs, New Jersey experimental hip-hop trio dälek’s lyricism is a call for arms, with its range of subject matter leaving few stones unturned (“Still at odds with false gods of archaic age/Angelic face wretched with pain ignites my flame/Your mundane daily life amazes me/Such complacency”). In an era of Nelly and Ashanti types, it brought an industrial hammer down on the mainstream.
Throbbing “Wreckers of Civilization” Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats pounds against your temple like Robocop grinding through the unoiled gears of a tractor gearbox. With their lyrics like "I've got a little biscuit tin/ To keep your panties in/ Soiled panties, white panties, school panties, Y-Front panties" in contextual harmony with the birth of Thatcherism, the group could be the most influential entry in this list.
It’s always a pleasure when you stumble across psych-rock as disorientating and dizzying as what can be found on Psychedelic Underground. This 1969 release occasionally verges into an expressive kind of psychedelic drone, leaving plenty of breathing space for songs to swell and expand its tripped-out sound. "I’m Garten Sandosa" (above) is stretched out until the gradual building of noise snaps, and slowly fades to an unwelcome silence.
The scuzzy creativity of prolific collaborators Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Napalm Death) and Kevin Martin (The Bug, GOD) culminated spectacularly in the early noughties in the unsettling soundscapes and noise-laden jungle sound of Mass Destruction. With its fuzzed-out aggression, it left a high watermark in extreme music.
Husker Du’s usual pop influenced hardcore/punk-rock sound hadn’t yet been formulated for their early 80s debut Land Speed Record. You can imagine Death Grips channeling the same amphetamine-charged punk rock in their live shows (when they actually turn up, that is).
Allegory And Self is a more psych-influenced and less anxiety-inducing album than usual from Genesis P-Orridge and Peter Christopherson, (one half of Throbbing Gristle). With this, Psychic TV showed just how good this corner of underground music was in 1988. "She Was Surprised" is just one of the overwhelmingly brilliant cuts from what was the band's third album that year, and sounds amazingly fresh when listened alongside with the low-fi, disco-infused psych-rock bubbling up on the West Coast at the moment.
More rhythmic and defined than the debut SPK album Information Overload Unit which preceded it, Leichenschrei was the argued pinnacle of what Industrial music could offer, and perhaps its eternally-measured creepiness was never quite equaled.
Antipop Consortium’s debut album Tragic Epilogue doesn’t pump the brakes once on its stream-of-consciousness lyrics, leaving breathless verses to accompany its intelligently experimental instrumentals. "Rinseflow" is as potent as standalone poetry with purpose, with lyrical mouthfuls such as "Disconcerting unnerving let’s try something this time/I’ll play the part of the heart-torn rapper/Trying to reveal his real feelings/ But lacking devises priceless paradigm".
While a large proportion of Death Grips enthusiasts (and indeed “horrorcore” princes Odd Future) were sitting cross-legged at primary school, Techno Animal had just released a moonlit convergence of the experimental electronic and hip-hop genres. Brotherhood of The Bomb took Techno Animal’s previous, more ambient-minded album, Re-Entry, added a heap of underground hip-hop aficionados (including EL-P and Vast Aire) and allowed them freedom to ebb and flow though heavy hitting, head-nodding instrumentals.
This utterly unique-sounding, missing link between prog-rock and post-punk still sounds as fresh as it did thirty years ago. The stylised weirdness of the Camberwell-formed trip is something we sometimes take for granted these days, but this album is as quietly, daringly as in your face as you can get.