Splendor & Misery

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Los Angeles-based noise-rap trio clipping. have come a remarkably long way since Jonathan Snipes (formerly of irony-killing duo Captain Ahab) and William Hutson (aka noise-drone artist Rale) established it as a remix project in 2009. Since the addition of MC Daveed Diggs (also of True Neutral Crew, along with Signor Benedick the Moor and Deathbomb Arc founder Brian Kinsman), the group self-released 2013's well-received mixtape Midcity before signing with Sub Pop for their full-length debut, 2014's CLPPNG. Studio wizard Snipes has since written soundtracks for numerous films, Hutson completed a Ph.D. in theater and performance studies, and Diggs achieved fame as an original cast member of the hit musical Hamilton. While CLPPNG (so titled because its lyrics lacked the most common word in hip-hop, "I") subverted mainstream hip-hop conventions and was equally influenced by Three 6 Mafia and academic electro-acoustic composition, Splendor & Misery is exponentially more ambitious. The album is essentially an opera about the only survivor of a slave revolt, who is trapped on a spaceship traveling throughout the universe. The story can be likened to an outer space relative of Drexciya's underwater mythology, and it draws equally from 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as the brilliant Afrofuturist science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, even going so far as to reference characters from her novels in the songs' lyrics ("Air 'Em Out" mentions the Oankali alien race from the Xenogenesis trilogy, while "Baby Don't Sleep" namechecks the mutants known as Clayarks from the Patternist series). While CLPPNG and subsequent outtakes EP Wriggle were more explicitly club-influenced, the sound design on Splendor & Misery is far more experimental and less rhythmic; at times it sounds like Diggs' complex, hyper-literate raps are being accompanied by industrial drone artists like :zoviet*france: or Lustmord. The beats echo the background noises of the spaceship, replicating clanking and whirring noises rather than resembling anything danceable. Only on a few moments do Snipes and Hutson interject Whitehouse-like power electronics and harsh noise. As dystopian as the album seems, there's an undeniable hopefulness present. A handful of tracks feature either gospel-inspired vocals ("True Believer" even quotes the 19th century slave song "I Know When I'm Going Home") or splintered church organ tones. Ultimately, the protagonist ends up celebrating an escape from society and finding freedom in his isolation. Devastating yet optimistic, Splendor & Misery is a stunning leap forward for clipping., and one of the most impressive albums of the year.

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