‘Splendor & Misery’ sees experimental hip hop act Clipping follow up a series of a great, noisy albums with something a little more conceptual. Previous albums ‘Midcity’ and ‘CLPPNG’ saw the band perform in some of the most unique and innovative ways, rapping over the noisiest of soundscapes like clock effects and static. This time around, Clipping are just as abstract, but a lot more cinematic, with the album focussing on the story of a slave in outer space.
Daveed Diggs has now found himself greater fame, playing Marquis da Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson on Broadway in the musical ‘Hamilton’, and by the overall feel and scope of the album and its story, it seems as though that may have played a part in this new conceptual direction. A great sense of this is gathered with the track ‘The Breach’, which is a very fast, instantaneous song that sets the scene with amazing intensity.
“Warning, mothership reporting…” logs Diggs on ‘All Black’. This song, along with most that follow, captures the sci-fi essence of the album quite remarkably, and the beat and all-out chaos of ‘Wake Up’ with its “there’ll be no here when you wake up” creates an impressive visual of what you could cornily refer to as calamity…in space. ‘Splendor & Misery’ is pretty much a soundtrack album, but one where you must close your eyes and remove yourself from yourself to experience fully.
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To focus on some of the fundamentals and cosmetics of the record – perhaps the most notable addition on ‘Splendor & Misery’ as far as Clipping are concerned, is the introduction of gospel segments, from the tormented ‘Long Away’ to the ‘Amazing Grace’-esque ‘Story 5’. This addition is fairly strange at first, but the unsettling nature of the former and the beauty of the latter are very welcome qualities. ‘Story 5’ is also a fairly ambiguous follow-up to the group’s pre-existing ‘Story’ saga.
The beats of ‘True Believer’ and ‘A Better Place’ compliment the hooks and the intricate rapping style of Diggs exquisitely, from shuffling taps to sci-fi samples.
The fate of the slave is unclear, after facing terrifying tribulations in the latter tracks, notably ‘Break the Glass’, the conclusion is ambiguous. Still, the hectic nature of ‘Splendor & Misery’ is immense in itself, when it digresses from an actual story it’s still atmospheric and risky, even if it is slightly convoluted.
‘Splendor & Misery’ is very ambitious, with impressive results that may not have the impactful, punchy, singles-quality of Clipping’s previous albums, but the literal exploration on show is magnificent in its own strange way.
‘Splendor & Misery’ is out now via Sub Pop / Deathbomb Arc
This Clipping article was written by Ben Malkin, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit : Suzy Poling