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DEATH DLX: Further Reinvention of Deathirl’s Sound

In the process of hyping their newest release on twitter, Deathirl proclaimed DEATH DLX to be “the new Kids See Ghosts”, teaming up with singer and producer TOTALF—KINGBLISS, along with other vocalists and producers like DJ ROZZWELL and goobwashere. Despite the brevity of the album and the implication of quality made by the comparison, there’s one other respect in which the comparison seems merited, and that’s in that due to the experimental production brought to bear by TOTALF—KINGBLISS, the listener is often left at a loss as to points of sonic comparison. There are times when both projects sound like nothing you’ve ever heard. The distorted synth chords on “ROYALTY” and plastic-y popping percussion sounds sound kind of JPEGMAFIA-inspired, but it’s still pretty tenuous.

In their past projects Deathirl have rarely been shy of pushing into different genres and trying on the clothes of different influences, and in pairing with BLISS, they’ve created their most eclectic release yet. There are times when the listener finds themselves catching hints of genres ranging from the sounds of industrial metal to bedroom pop, incorporating splashes of everything in between. Despite or perhaps owing to this fact, DEATH DLX is also to some degree Deathirl’s most accessible release, boxing the aggression and rage into some of the most gratifyingly rhythmic sounds in music thanks to their superb command of flow.

The ambitious variety of the project is immediately evident from the opening track “NO PEACE”, with Deathirl rapping over what is for all intents and purposes a raw, detuned piece of punk rock. Deathirl suits this sound as if born into it, with untrained and intimate vocals that match the desolate, sombre tone of the sandblasted “THE SKY IS FALLING DOWN”, building to an apocalyptic climax.

DEATH DLX is no loose collage though, with a sense of tension and progression as the chaos and rage of the first half gives way to the more introspective and soothing second half, where BLISS takes the reigns more, having ceded the first half to Deathirl’s untrammelled aggression. This dichotomy is represented neatly in the album artwork. Tracks like “TOO HIGH” and “CONGRATULATIONS! YOU WON” have a more bittersweet and wistful form of dejection while “DIAL UP” injects an almost hyperpop sense of humour. The warbling synths of that album’s single “TOO HIGH” are simultaneously blissful and blistering, with a fantastic goobwashere feature, bringing a flow that when combined with the instrumental delivers a chemistry that feels very Brockhampton-level.

The most impressive and exciting moments though are the ones where the duo are able to fuse in a more dynamic fashion. Deathirl’s wild uncontrolled taunt on the verses on “ROYALTY” create a magnificent chemistry with BLISS’s sweetly harmonised vocals on the bridge. The track “BANANAS” from the DEATH IN REAL LIFE EP released earlier this year here gets retooled with an urban twist, with the buzzing instrumental incorporating what sounds like the rushing of a passing subway car. The experimental production style is matched by the ambitious song structures, as tracks expand and mutate, never seeming to shrink or succumb to a second’s redundancy.

Once again, I’m blown away by the sheer creativity and virtuosity on display from an artist operating in such obscurity. Part of me wonders whether Deathirl isn’t limiting their own appeal by rejecting the impulse to establish a signature sound, with this desire for growth perhaps feeling premature, but it’s a hard line to draw when they seem capable of mastering so many different subgenres of rap with such preternatural ease. In collaborating with BLISS, they seem to have really found the comfort beyond their comfort zone that all artists should aspire to occupy.

Written by Hal Kitchen

Primarily a reviewer of music and films, Hal Kitchen studied at the University of Kent where they graduated with distinction in both Liberal Arts BA and Film MA, specializing in film, gender theory and cultural studies. Whilst at Kent they were the Film & TV sub-editor and later Culture Editor of the campus newspaper InQuire and began a public blog on their Letterboxd account.
Hal joined 25YearsLaterSite as a volunteer writer in May 2020 and resumed their current role of assistant film editor in November 2020.

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