Could music’s last taboo be illness and disability? On this blinding debut LP, 27-year-old Melbourne artist Grant Gronewold lights the topic up and holds the fiery ruins high amid a hybrid of trap, R&B and shuddering bass, bookended by Boards of Canada-esque synthesiser.
Gronewold has cystic fibrosis and his life expectancy is 35 – but he’s outlived by 26 years the prognosis he was given growing up poor in America, with no healthcare. “There is power in expecting to die young,” he told It’s Nice That in 2015. That power is unleashed in a spectrum of shades ranging from brutal and beautiful, aided in the latter by superstars of the Melbourne R&B scene Oscar Key Sung, Sui Zhen of No Zu and Banoffee.
Gronewold’s dark lyrics hit hard because he’s flooding light across a communal blindspot: what it’s like to live with chronic disease. Over a tinny Caribbean loop on Choke Chain, in a voice that’s reedy and insistent, he raps: “They say my body is a curse/Ambulance please bring a nurse but they pulled up in a hearse.” He spares no quarter. Do people sing along at gigs? Do they put their hands in the air?