Thursday, January 21, 2016

Clarence Clarity - No Now (2015) Review

The second ‘Become Death’ rose out of nothingness I knew I was in for something ludicrously over the top. The 20 song tracklist helped too, with ideas pouring out the seams so much that the stitching holding it together can’t help but burst every time No Now turns a corner. So, in essence, this is exactly what Clarence Clarity wanted. I know next to nothing of the individual in charge of this mindless creation, but again, being that this is his debut, that seems to be the point. Everything known to the masses about the London Glitch Pop artist bulges out of these 20 songs. The lavishly obtuse production, the spell-binding choruses, the Noise-centric interludes, the wailing vocals that cry out for attention, all of it scratches down its sonic walls at all points in time. And in an era of Post-FKA Twigs (Yes, that’s already a thing) Art Pop the artist feels capable of anything, No Now’s just another example of a newcomer pushing boundaries through absurdist experimentalism that thrives off the high risk/high reward mentality. At the end of the grueling 62 minute Rave session though, Clarity concludes his project leaving more questions than answers, a dilemma in the present that may blossom into rhapsody sometime in the future.

To someone having a difficult time imagining the palate on display here, this comparison montage might only confuse you more, but regardless here it goes. Imagine the vocal whimper’s of early How To Dress Well mashed up against the bustling monstrosity of Animal Collective’s later works, with a dash of nonsensical clashing from the likes of Dan Deacon and some shortwave editing chops akin to Oneohtrix Point Never. Oh, and some Vaporware on ‘Porn Mountain' for good measure. In other words, it’s a lot to take in. I don’t know the man behind the creation enough to judge but one could articulate the parody No Now makes on our dazzling culture of excess by doing it itself. The titles scream pontification, drooling over anti-religious sanctity and political axioms despite the lyrics and overall mood shying away from such verbal discourse. The production is almost consistently burdensome, loftily working in the surplus, leaving absolutely no room for space, except the ironic 23 second ‘Tathagatagarbha’ smack in the middle of the album that’s entirely silent. Surrounding that though is noise construction that tip-toes the line between Industrial and Pop, a forgery that works brilliantly half the time and blunders gracefully the other half.

What Clarence Clarity makes ridiculously clear is his adoration of catchy hooks and addictive melodies, so much so that it borders on obsession. Every fully realized track features multiple instances of the artist utilizing his Pop sensibilities. Some of the best, like ‘The Cute’ and ‘Cancer In The Water,’ incorporate multiple vocalists and nauseating usages of effectual manipulation. When he gets creative under his own restraints hooks also shine, like 'Meadow Hopping, Traffic Stopping’ and ‘Let’s Shoot Up.’ I could devote an entire paragraph to listing the worthy choruses here, it’s easily No Now’s greatest calling card. But when Clarence Clarity detracts from the album’s inherent juicy parts it drawls in senseless abundance. The verses just pass over needlessly despite the attention they’ve been given, the vocals so drained in artificial deformities that the meaning behind the lyrics, if there really are any, quickly fleet. The stemming message given throughout sees the vocalist coming to grips with his internal conflicts and external agitations, but you wouldn’t know that after a singular listen. Therefore the focus of No Now shifts to its fantastical soundstage, admitting the vocals themselves into the mix of instruments that only facilitates the rapid musicalities.

The biggest problem with Clarity’s debut though is that excess I’ve been mentioning. Not just within the songs themselves and the self-contained production, the gargantuan size of the piece itself really causes slip-ups. Essentially it works as a Hip-Hop mixtape, spitting out everything constructed without any decision-making. Thankfully the album does flow, as many elements bleed into one another without hesitation, but that’s mostly due to the overall arrangement of the orchestration. Some tracks, especially the longer ones, like ‘With No Fear,’ sputter because of their length, the experimentation gyrating out of control towards the end rather pointlessly given the album filled with the same ordeals. Now as a whole that production, despite its complications, is rather inviting, following patterns and melodies that bounce, flex, grind, and jerk across an orgy of synthesizers. The more straight-forward tracks, like ‘Alive In The Septic’ and 'Buck-Toothed Particle Smashers,’ have similar backbones that function like rhythmic Dance tracks, ones without much variety or originality. He does flip things though on the more ambitious pieces, namely ‘1-800-WORSHIP’ which beckons for his underlying Industrial sound, bringing it to the forefront.

Critiques aside, and there’s lots of them, No Now is one hell of a listen. With 62 minutes to take in you’ll be bound to find something worth enjoying. That is, of course, if you enjoy Internet-age Alternative R&B and Art Pop, which is a chore to get into in the first place. There’s no denying Clarence Clarity’s debut has its own place within these genres, escaping himself from the ever-devolving repetition of them all, breathing life that may come on too strong but it’s still welcome. There’s no denying that in the Indie scene this debut, virtually appearing out of nowhere, may be one of the strongest to come out in 2015. But even more than that No Now shows an artist with immeasurable potential if criticisms are taken to heart and music is condensed. The one thing worth worrying about is something other similar artists, like t-U-n-E-y-A-r-D-s, have fallen into and that’s the sonic trap where their debut creates a sound with little room for innovation. Clarity Clarence, with the amount he threw into No Now, may bite him in the future as sounds have all reached their max. Regardless, and at the end of the day, No Now is a fun album that relishes in its own embellishments. 

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