When clipping. released their last album ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ in October 2019 the plan was to release it followed up in a few months. Sadly, this never happened due to the global pandemic. So, more or less, a year later Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes have released its follow up. ‘Visions Of Bodies Being Burned’ is here.
Like on their previous album the Horrorcore tropes have been pushed even further this time. Originally the genre came to prominence in the mid-90s. It was an absurdist take on hip-hop where the songs were peppered with horror film samples, and sounds, with the rappers taking on alter- egos with macabre names traits. Lyrically, the themes were darker than on conventional albums and more transgressive in places. Prince Paul and RZA’s horrorcore project The Gravediggaz is considered the album that broke the genre mainstream. Here clipping. use dark lyrically imagery to tell twisted stories of how monstrous living in 2020 can be.
‘Intro’ kicks the album off with booming drums. There are the sounds of cars driving nearby and everything is dripping with an ominous vibe. It brings to mind the opening of Blade Runner and visions of dystopic cityscapes. Diggs then emerges from the shadows and starks barking rhymes at us before everything is consumed in static. If this is your first introduction to clipping. keep with us, it’s going to be ok, they just like setting a scene before the album starts proper. If you are an old head, yes mate! How good is this going to be?
‘Say The Name’ is a more conventional track but given clipping.’s ability to wind avant-garde and experimentalism motifs with hip-hop its vibrancy isn’t just a breath of fresh air, it’s a full-on hurricane. The title of the album is repeated like a demented mantra throughout while Diggs one of his most compelling vocal performances to date. If ‘Intro’ was just a taster of what to expect, ‘Say the Name’ lays it all on the table. Terse basslines, trap infused beats and claustrophobic synths all create a vibe of uncanny terror, but with one hell of a bounce to it. #
Like on ‘There Existed An Addiction To Blood’ clipping. have brought some friends along for the ride. Cam, China, Greg Stuart, Michael Esposito, Ho99o9, Ted Byrnes, Jeff Parker and Sickness all appear throughout. For the most part their inclusions add something extra to the songs and elevate them to another level.
The song where this doesn’t quite work is on ‘Looking Like Meat’ featuring Ho99o9. On paper this looks like a no brainer. Ho99o9 aren’t afraid to push the envelope and their music can been see as a continuation of Horrorcore, but with metal/hard rock motifs instead of traditional hip- hop references. However, here it feels a bit flat. There is nothing wrong, or bad, with ‘Looking Like Meat’, but given the expectations it’s kind of fails to make the impact the rest of the albums does. Deep basslines and stuttering beats are devastating from the outset, but it sadly isn’t the classic it could be.
The avant-garde and experimental influences on ‘Visions of Bodies Being Burned’ are yet again at the fore. Be that the field recordings on the opening track, the sound of sheep on ‘Drove’ or the layers of noise that underpin each track. As with ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ closes with a piece of music written by a female avant-garde musician/composer.
On ‘‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ clipping. covered Annea Lockwoods’ ‘Piano Burning’ where they effectively mic-ed up a piano and then set it on fire and recorded the sounds. It was the standout moment on the album and one that has lingered with me far longer than the rest combined. Here the final track is called ‘Secret Piece’ and was composed by Yoko Ono. The piece originally appeared in her Grapefruit book, published in 1964, but was written in 1953.
Ono wrote the piece when she was 19 studying at Gakushūin University in Japan. After being instructed to ‘listen to the sounds of nature and translate them into musical notation’ Ono wrote ‘Secret Piece’. It is effectively one held bass F note with performance directions of “with the accompaniment of the birds singing at dawn.” This is exactly what clipping. do. It might be as long as the 20-minute ‘Piano Burning’, but it is as powerful.
At times, their music is more like a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon than Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes (an unofficial live action version of C&H was the first place I saw Diggs acting back in the day). Their music takes the macabre to unprecedented places. Sometimes their stories have darkly humorous undertones, like Key and Peele, but then BAM the punchline is delivered, and we’re scared out of our wits.
‘Visions of Bodies Being Burned’ is an album that will cement clipping.’s reputation as one of the most exciting and visionary groups working in music today, while it might not pack the same punch to the senses as ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’ there is plenty to engage with. It’s been said that every era gets the monster they deserve. If this is the case then ‘Visions of Bodies Being Burned’ is everything wrong, and right, with the world distilled into 52- minutes of absurdist hip-hop. We’ve never had it so good!
Words: Nick Roseblade
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