(Deathbomb Arc, 2012)
And so it’s done – Christmas, that is, and I’m dangling here between that holiday and New Year’s, bloated with delicious food and drink and wallowing in my own complacence. (Note: You’ll read this much later.) I’m not complaining, mind you – it was all great, but here at Critical Masses headquarters, if you’re not continuing to stay relevant, you quickly get shown the door. Just ask that pompous John Updike what that’s all about – we’re better off here without him.
Anyway, so I’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music – a toddler who loves it will do that to you – so I need to get out of the rut I’m now clearly in. And so I turn to the ubiquitous presence in my 2012 year-end recap, that record label that without fail always provides the tunage to snap me to attention, to inundate me with the strange and unusual: Deathbomb Arc. Whether I out and out love one of their releases, don’t quite get what a record’s going for, or flat out hate something so much that I go so far as to purge a catalog number from my memory, I’m never going to be bored. Ever. The DBA team is the funkbusters – eradicating bad vibes nationwide, but cross the streams at your own peril.
So hey, this Clipping band! This did it. I’m talking about their Deathbomb Digital Singles Club entry here, but they also released one cassette in a three-tape run, their Untitled EP, and it’s equally raw and unnerving and flat-out excellent. The band features the inimitable Jonathan Snipes, late of the unmentionable Captain Ahab (no, not really unmentionable, just didn’t want to say “inimitable” twice), William Hutson of Rale, and Daveed Diggs. But the best part about them, and the two songs featured here, is that they’re a noise rap band, straight up. Like literally rapping over drone tracks. I couldn’t believe it when I first heard “forever (clipping. remix),” which begins with unnerving layers of droning sirens before Diggs starts spitting fire like he’s got the dopest beat in his monitor. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever heard, and it reminded me that music can surprise in unusual ways. And it stretches for over six minutes, with glo-fi auto-tune choruses!
I thought for sure I could lump Clipping in easily with Death Grips (who also have a history with Deathbomb), because people tend to say “noise rap” when talking about them, and even though it’s stupid to go through those exercises, it’s inherently useful to anyone who hasn’t heard the music. (So, although it’s to my own dismay, I’m doing you a service. You’re welcome.) But this is really really NOISE rap, and doesn’t sound like Death Grips much at all, although I wouldn’t fault you, as you shouldn’t fault me, for mentioning the two bands in the same breath. Where Death Grips has an equally unusual but certainly more defined sense of rhythm, Clipping gets by using the vocals as the only real rhythmic element, especially in “forever.” And even though single “b-side” “how low (clipping. remix)” uses a vocal sample to tease out the rhythm, it’s still the only real rhythm, with electronic flourishes here and there for accoutrement, but ultimately window dressing for Diggs’s early-Ludacris-style rapid-fire delivery. Again, as with “forever,” “how low” is exciting for its unconventional construction within the hip hop idiom.
Clipping’s digital single simply reinforces the quality and out-and-out fun of a club like Deathbomb’s, and, as I mentioned in my recap of 2012, puts Sub Pop’s singles club – perhaps once the gold standard – to shame in its innovative curation. And it also gives bands like Clipping, who have released very little music to date, a wider stage on which to promote their music. Here’s hoping for more from the band in the very near future.
RIYL: Death Grips, Ludacris, Eminem, Captain Ahab