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Face Review

by Fred Thomas

Los Angeles trio clipping. began as an exercise in extremity, with producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes merging pre-existing rap a capellas to new instrumentals of their own making. These "beats" had more in common with harsh noise, industrial, and power electronics than they did traditional rap production, and the unlikely pairing resulted in some of the more disorienting and aggressive sounds to ever fall adjacent to rap. When emcee Daveed Diggs joined the fold, clipping. took on a new life, Diggs' original rhymes more powerful and intense than any stock verses the producers had sampled in the project's earliest days. One of clipping.'s earliest releases was a three-song cassette in 2012. Presented here as Face (so named after the first song on what was an untitled tape), those three songs are remastered and filled out by remixes and other auxiliary material. At just two minutes long, "Face" builds from spare to raging, Diggs' staccato flow the only constant as the beat grows into a wall of sharp noise. The other two tracks from the original cassette, "Studio Freestyle 01" and "Block," are different shades of the same. The rapping sounds almost barely connected to the instrumentals, which sound less like rhythms or music and more like shrapnel left behind from when those things exploded violently. Challenging and confrontational has been clipping.'s style from the start, and these tracks are among the most aggressive of their catalog. By comparison, the four remixes of "Face" that fill out the project can't help but sound overly musical and tame. Youth Code's take on the song renders it an eerie but straightforward synthwave tune while Flanch's detuned synths and quick shifts in tempo and pace aim for the same flustering energy of the original. JPEGMAFIA turns in a brief, moody remix of the song, and Signor Benedick the Moor takes a sound collage approach. Along with an a capella version of "Face," there's also a clipping. remix of Foot Village's "This Song Is a Drug Deal" that sounds like a malfunctioning video game melting on the pavement. Not merely a rap group with generic noise elements sprinkled into their production, clipping. are a different wing of extreme music seeking to dismantle whatever they touch. Face is a prime example of how committed to their abrasive mission they were even from the beginning.