We think that Ryan Olson is kind of a freak and he probably likes it that way. He hangs out with other like-minded freaks, way up north in Minneapolis, where the big snows turn into dirty snows and folks keep themselves inside for months at a time, just to wait out the crippling coldness. The hibernation period of the winter months must be the catalyst for people like Olson staying indoors with every record and every book they can get their hands on and find refuge in their own personal mash-ups, finding ways to either fill the time with something or discover new and more creative ways to rub two people together to keep warm. It could be the latter idea that Olson subscribes to most closely. As one of the chief originators of the equally odd collection of soft-rock-ballad-loving buddies GAYNGS, Olson goes a different route in a similar quest to get people touching other people with his other project, Marijuana Deathsquads. Again, it's another cast of super friends, with a revolving door/whomever's-in-town-that-night mentality, but the music goes down that jagged and manic road of someone with a short attention span, but a very focused adherence to a dedicated and relentless groove, one that will take you through some seedy back rooms, over some sticky floors and into some open, black-lit party rooms where everyone's motions are clicking on and off in different warped speeds.
With Marijuana Deathsquads, Olson and frequent collaborators such as Doomtree's Mike Mictlan, Rhymesayers' P.O.S. and Har Mar Superstar make you feel as if you've just been bit by a psychedelic rattlesnake and you're quickly losing your mind as the white venom courses through your veins. You can just shut your eyes and feel the dizziness take over, move you around the floor, twist you over the cushions or into the thin sheets of a bed. You feel as if you could be arrested for just being where you are right now, as if you've done something immoral that you don't even remember, as if the fog's either just wearing off or it's just setting in. We're on the borderline of cognition and full-blown fuzziness. They recreate the sensations of free-fall and in coming upon a bed full of tarantulas when you'd have been scared out of your skin just seeing one of them. It's a longer route to getting intimate with someone else (compared with the sax and vocoder-harmony-rocking style of GAYNGS), but Marijuana Deathsquads still leave the possibilities out there for you to do what you will with them. The frightening segments are interspersed with celebratory dancehall beats and you can almost see Olson hopping around behind his laptop, his mouth blowing up with ecstasy, stoned out of his mind, with the biggest smile you've ever seen ladling the bottom half of his face. You join in the look and go where the Deathsquads take you.
CITY PAGES - Tigger Lunney
It's been an explosive rise for a group that started as a way to avoid getting bored when their hardcore band Building Better Bombs was on hiatus. Over the past year, while P.O.S. played multiple festivals and the Olson
masterminded Gayngs exploded locally and nationally, Marijuana Deathsquads' party squad morphed from hardcore-inspired noise into a Picked to Click act who brought together an eclectic rotating cast of local musicians and out-of-town guests, creating ear-bending improv/dance grooves that defied listener expectations and spit in the face of easy categorization. Drummers Ivascu and Votel, who can claim membership in over 10 local bands between the two of them, form the organic rhythmic core; Gale, Alexander, and Olson act as the main noisemakers, sample-tweakers, and vocalists; and from there, you never know who's going to show up.
CITY PAGES - BEST OF 2011
There's plenty to be said about Marijuana Deathsquads' future-forward approach to electronic hardcore—the controlled chaos, the indescribable squalor, the sometimes random and high-profile laundry list of collaborators—but what's often overlooked, somehow, is one of the group's main ingredients: singer Isaac Gale's distorted, piercing howl. Like a poltergeist creeping out of a snowy, crackling television screen, Gale's tortured, throaty hollering is the stuff of zombie nightmares, simultaneously gut-wrenching and enthralling. Crouched over a tangle of laptops and wires, while the rest of the ever-evolving band churns away behind him, Gale holds a microphone to his lips, lets out a painful wail, and cranks a knob to make his ghost-screams echo and loop into infinity, and we have no choice but to stand and stare, awestruck.
STAR TRIBUNE - Chris Reiemenschneider
Defying the rule that all bands with hemp-related names have to be laid-back and groovy, Marijuana Deathsquads has been steadily blowing eardrums, breaking drum heads and tearing at the seams of conventional music-making since its semi-mysterious inception as an experimental, rhythmically bombastic offshoot of the hardcore band Building Better Bombs. The group is made up of a loose collective of local scenemakers, including rap star P.O.S., programmer Ryan Olson and some of their Gayngs cohorts and other pals. Chris Riemenschneider
EXAMINER.COM - Matt Beachey
If this band isn’t on your radar, you need to get the thing calibrated. The Minneapolis TV video to your left should do the trick.
Don’t be fooled by their juvenile sounding-name. Marijuana Deathsquads are the leaders of experimental music in Minneapolis. The combined forces of their three drummers, analogue synthesizers, bass and howling, highly processed vocals is the soundtrack to raging nightmares that you enjoy in retrospect. These guys know how to shape sound, wringing it by the neck and tearing out all its feathers into a cloud of debris that appears to be chaos until you realize the particles align in inconceivable ways. They come across as carefully planned and completely off the cuff simultaneously. Drawing from the likes of Battles and Holy Fuck, MDS creates powerful and unique noise music that this city needs direly.
These guys must be seen live to fully appreciate the fact that nothing they do utilizes computers. Every sound is wrenched out of antiquated, analogue hardware, powered by the kinetic energy of three pummeling drummers. I was fortunate enough to catch them a few months ago at the Gayngs Affiliyated concert at First Ave. I can’t image how loud it gets in whatever small dungeon they call a practice space.