By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Hill was also—ironically, in retrospect—eager to talk about the band's desire to expand and transform their by all accounts high-energy live show. According to Hill, the Death Grips live experience means to offer ecstasy and euphoria. In fact, he told me, the band was hoping to play more dance events. "Rave-oriented festivals, we talk about that all the time as something that's interesting," he said.
Death Grips wasn't booked into the biggest venues in its alt-rock-friendly milieu—not even on their since-scotched summer tour—and Hill was humble about their prospects of getting there. "We have a lot of ideas as far as once we're able to expand—or if we're ever lucky enough to expand—like [placing] audiences into bigger spaces, in terms of how we want to approach things visually," he said. Everyone in the band is a visual artist, he added, noting that each member contributed to the video for the new song "Blackjack," a found-footage collage that plays inside a rotating circle that looks both like a record spinning backward and a ship's porthole window.
The question going forward, however, is: How much of this still stands? If a band on the verge can just pull a 180 like this, how much of anything they say can be counted on? Will we actually see a planned second album this year, No Love, which Hill told me was "70 percent" finished already? Because Internet-music culture abhors a vacuum, the near-term danger is that the band's surprise disappearing act will overshadow the aesthetic solidity of their music—the one thing that ought to be more important than touring dramas or surprise major-label signings.
When I called Hill's cell phone after news of Death Grips' macro cancellation broke, my call went straight to a full voicemail box. E-mails to the website address likewise went unanswered. I did track down the publicist-of-record for Death Grips, at Big Hassle Media, and asked whether anyone at Epic Records might be able to speak to the band's future progress or schedule. He replied: "I don't think so only because they don't know. Band just went underground."
Meanwhile, fans and music journalists alike are left to look for clues in the band's thin sampling of past public statements. (Plus a new video of unknown vintage "Hustle Bones," that recently showed up on YouTube.) In what now seems like foreshadowing, Hill told me in April that Death Grips were prepared to dismantle and reassemble the formulas that have worked thus far. In particular, he predicted a pivot back toward some more work with recognizable music samples and said their third release would try to synthesize the respective energies of the stark, streamlined Exmilitary and the more generous-sounding Money Store.
"It's kind of hard to talk about the ways that we work," Hill said then in describing the band's progress on No Love. "There's a lot of destruction that comes into play, in terms of making something and slowly mutating it or destroying it. . . . I think we're just constantly developing."
Given that the Bang on a Can organizers are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, it makes sense that they'd pull out all the stops for this iteration of their annual free summer festival. During this year's 12-hour stretch of adventurous contemporary music, you can expect to see some alt-rock boldface names like David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth having their solo works performed. That's in addition to a presentation of Steve Reich's Six Pianos and a performance by Pauline Oliveros's Deep Listening Band. But don't just try to catch the familiar names; the great thing about spending time at a Bang marathon is discovering a previously unknown act, like Buke and Gase (who came to broader attention after their 2010 appearance). World Financial Center, 200 Vesey Street, bangonacan.org
Hilary Hahn & Hauschka
Hilary Hahn wants you to know she's not just your average, elegant violin virtuoso. So when she's not tackling rough pieces of modern repertoire—think Charles Ives and Arnold Schoenberg—she's cutting albums with the German prepared-piano experimentalist Volker Bertelmann, who is better known to indie-world types as Hauschka. This concert celebrates the release of Silfra, their collaborative, improvisational album on the venerable Deutsche Grammophon label (which might now be wondering if it'll get its first-ever Pitchfork review). City Winery, 155 Varick Street, citywinery.com
The Governors Ball
June 23 through 24
So Fiona Apple is back! Perhaps you saw some of the breathless coverage during SXSW or the reporting on the long (natch) title of her forthcoming record? She's probably going to be unseeable in small venues for the foreseeable future—so both new fans and those with deeper bragging rights are advised to check out her set at this Randalls Island festival, which is promising no overlapping sets. (That's good news for the nostalgic, who won't have to make an agonizing choice between Apple and, say, Beck.) Major Lazer and Santigold are putative highlights among the rest of the lineup. Randalls Island Park, governorsballmusicfestival.com