Clipping. seemingly came out of nowhere and blew my head off last week. They’ve actually been around for a few years but were well under my radar and I’m not the only one judging by the comments I’ve had from various friends I’ve played them to. I was drawn to them by the cover to their latest album, ‘Splendor & Mercy’, which riffs off the Philips Prospective 21st Siecle LPs with silver foil covers that I collect and adds a cosmonaut in silhouette. It caught my eye, can’t remember where, so I thought I’d check it out, assuming it would be a synth-y, spacey kind of thing but then noticed it was on Sub Pop Records, the legendary indie rock/alternative label of old. OK, so maybe I’ve misjudged this. A full album stream on YouTube revealed the broody rumble of deep space, static and star transmissions before a rasping voice interjected, shortly before bursting into double time raps against hyper drive engine throbs – or is it the sound of a star dying?. Crackling distortion, warning sirens and sub bass pulses, this is hip hop, just not like anything I’d heard before.

The trio of Daveed Diggs (vocals), William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (electronics) have set up camp in their own little corner of hip hop, one that no one else I can think of is inhabiting right now. It’s such a deep corner that few have even ventured near before that I’d say they’ve got a lot of space to move around in right now. One of the most interesting aspects is that the music is entirely free of conventional music samples, instead consisting of noise, fx, found and electronic sound and that it’s entirely subservient to Diggs’ voice. He drives the compositions, weaving in half, double and triple time through the sometimes barely-there rhythms – witness the performance for Moog below.

As an MC he’s incredible, up there with Busdriver, Mika 9 or Andy Cooper in the vocal acrobatic stakes with raps that pull no punches but don’t kowtow to traditional cliche´s of keepin’ it real or playing the game. Equally, Hutson and Snipes’ jagged digital landscapes fight and intrude with the vocal’s restless energy. They’ve previously composed soundtracks for TV and film, most notably the documentary on Stanley Kubrick‘s hidden meanings in ‘The Shining’,Room 237′, on Death Waltz Recordings.

I forgot to mention; it’s a concept album too, from the release page on Bandcamp: “Splendor & Misery is an Afrofuturist, dystopian concept album that follows the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship, and the onboard computer that falls in love with him. Thinking he is alone and lost in space, the character discovers music in the ship’s shuddering hull and chirping instrument panels. William and Jonathan’s tracks draw an imaginary sonic map of the ship’s decks, hallways, and quarters, while Daveed’s lyrics ride the rhythms produced by its engines and machinery. In a reversal of H.P. Lovecraft’s concept of cosmic insignificance, the character finds relief in learning that humanity is of no consequence to the vast, uncaring universe. It turns out, pulling the rug out from under anthropocentrism is only horrifying to those who thought they were the center of everything to begin with. Ultimately, the character decides to pilot his ship into the unknown—and possibly into oblivion—instead of continuing on to worlds whose systems of governance and economy have violently oppressed him.”.

Given some of the toss I’ve read in press releases and reading that AFTER I’ve heard the record I can actually get with it. Oh, and the reason I even checked it in the first place – the cover – it’s a beautiful package on vinyl: a clear vinyl ‘Loser’ edition with faux Philips label designs co-opted to the band name and a reflective silver foil triangle.


This is pushing things forward, breathing new life into a genre that’s been coasting alternatively on waves of pop commercialism, independent underground hustling or niche nostalgia for some time. This, and the records they’ve made before them, show a new way, give permission to the next generation, are as important as De La‘s ‘3 Feet High…’, PE‘s ‘It Takes A Nation of Millions…’  or NWAs ‘Straight Outta Compton’. You’ll love it or hate it, and it’s not always an easy listen (or watch – their videos are just as uncompromising) but it won’t go unnoticed for much longer. One of the most important albums of 2016. Check some of their other releases too, the ‘Wriggle’ EP, released earlier this summer, is just as raw and possibly just a bit more accessible.

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