A couple of weeks ago experimental hip hop group clipping. dropped their sophomore project “Splendor and Misery.”
The group is known for a special combination of industrial instrumentals that sample every horrific screeching noise you can imagine, as well as easily recognized sounds like clattering pans and an alarm clock, and tightly constructed, dense verses delivered by “Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs.
The group has been treading similar ground over their last couple of projects. “Splendor and Misery” still sounds unmistakably like a clipping. album, but with a enough new elements and thematic differences to make the album unique and not resigned to the bin of well constructed but similarly noisy tracks the group has put out over the past few years.
How it stands apart is the greatest triumph of this album. While the group has been putting out solid work over their lifespan, it has begun to blend together. “Splendor and Misery” manages to sound familiar track by track but stands apart as a whole.
This time around the project has given us a concept album, a tortuous space odyssey. The character in the album is a prisoner going on a jaunt through the cosmos and sees some horrific things on the way. They present a string of events instead of a constructed plot, a series of occasionally contemplative but often chaotic scenes in space. The record also never has a moment where it climbs to the top of a proverbial mountain to exclaim “This is what I’m saying!” a la “Crime of the Century.”
The concept behind the record is not the most compelling thing you’ll ever hear, but it functions and manages to add interest to the music rather than take away. It rides the line of being present without being excessive tactfully.
At 16 tracks, many of which only last about a minute, and a brief 37 minute runtime, this project takes no prisoners. It blitzes through a string of traditional clipping. tracks with unexpected bits of musical theater thrown in bold contrast. There is even a three minute gospel track, “Story 5,” toward the end of the record that references their mixtape “midcity.”
The lyrics and instrumentals are everything you would expect from a clipping. album: excellent. They’re tight, noisy, often challenging and occasionally catchy. The track “Air Em’ Out” is an idiosyncratic banger anthem that combines lyrical themes you would expect on a mainstream hip hop album with the looming threat of an alien force invading your world, and it works better than it should.
This is a solid record for people who like clipping. It still isn’t incredibly accessible music, but it has some genuinely catchy tracks and it doesn’t make the mistake of retreading old ground too heavily. It would have been disappointing to hear the group drop another predictably noisy album that could have been blended into a playlist with their other material and left out to dry. This record won’t change your life, but it’s a good listen if you are interested in this kind of music.
Story by: Carl Blankenship, Editor-in-Chief