It's always great for us to see other people taking their passion and turning that into written word as we do for our magazine. Most people have an opinion about music; its subjectivity combined with its role in our everyday lives means that you can strike up a fierce debate with almost anyone on the topic; which artist is better, which is worse, whose new album is exceeding expectations. As lovers of writing ourselves we always want to encourage people to express their opinions in this format; that's why we were excited to receive a message from Hull University music student James Cardie; a fellow music lover with a flair for journalism. It was obvious to me from the get go that James is filled with an enthusiasm and I was instantly excited to read his review - in which his talent for writing completely shines through.
clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned Review
by James Cardie
The corridor lets out a wooden groan, a door rattles on its latch, a metallic rasp curls its way round some distant corner, a flaming car crackles outside. You might mistake these to be the haunting sounds of a John Carpenter film, and who could blame you, but as soon as Daveed Diggs’ rapping begins, his spasmodic flow delivered in full force, it’s clear we’ve entered an entirely different aural domain. Here we enter the realm of Clipping once again, it’s time for us to see Visions of Bodies Being Burned.
For their fourth studio effort, Clipping continue their foray into industrial horrorcore, birthing a malformed sibling for 2019’s equally twisted There Existed an Addiction to Blood. Despite sharing similar sonic traits with their previous LP, Visions of Bodies Being Burned seems to forsake Clipping’s already abnormal approach to beat-making in favour of something far more unsettling. The dense, relentless beats of There Existed are shed in favour of sparsely arranged musique concrète, punctuated with movie-ready horror stings and the occasional barrage of harsh noise.
With the band’s sights seemingly set on brooding atmosphere rather than visceral grooves, you’d expect Diggs’ rapping to parallel this shift in tone. Whilst a few songs, such as the Gregorian chant-flecked noise music of ‘Make Them Dead’ or the Schaefferian sound collage of “Eaten Alive”, do contain some of Diggs’ laxer flows, he’s far from subdued on this one. The breakbeat freak-outs of ‘Pain Everyday’ allow Diggs to breathe fire, bars spat out like they’re brimstone, before the rhythmic madness dips away again and the song reasserts a glacial pace. “Chase the dreamer, chase the dreamer, fuck it up/Shake the dreamer, shake the dreamer, wake it up and that will/Make the dreamer hate the dreamer, cut it up” Diggs delivers, magically syncing his flow to the unpredictability of the beat. ‘Pain Everyday’ is a testament to Diggs’ ability to wade through swathes of intricate rhythms without losing his head. It’s also a textbook example of Clipping’s collective ability to successfully shift mood. Few bands fly from the pensive ambience of cLOUDDEAD to the frenetic ferocity of Death Grips with such compositional grace. Whilst all this talk of ‘noise’, ‘ambience’ and ‘music concrète’ makes Clipping’s new LP sound quite grave indeed, the campiness of certain lyrics grants a required reprieve from the album’s sonic battery. The music might summon shattered memories of Silent Hill, but Diggs’ words are safely in the camp of Resident Evil. The double-tracked a cappella breaks in ‘Something Underneath’ capture an unabashed theatricality that’s all Clipping’s own. On this track Diggs raps “Something is underneath, the weight's off/Birds in the trees don't sing/As if the mountain peaks would break off/Storms overseas forming”, his pitch undulating like the windswept landscape he describes.
It’s clear that Diggs’ dramaturgical experience has served him well for this album. His own vocal performance and the explosive performances of guest rappers such as Cam & China on the playfully subversive ‘‘96 Neve Campbell’ revels in notions of hyperbolic violence, supernatural sightings, cataclysmic disasters and biblical powerplay. On this track the hunter becomes the hunted. Inglewood-based rappers Cam & China both take on the lasting slasher trope of the ‘final girl’, toying with the formula in a similar vein to recent horror films like Cabin in the Woods and You’re Next. Instead of giving in to the clutches of the killer, they bravely shout “this bitch boss”—becoming an altogether more threatening form of ‘scream queen’. It’s Clipping’s ability to subvert not only narrative tropes, but the technical fundamentals of hip hop, that makes them so singular in their musical pursuit; who else would think to devote the final side of one of their albums to audio of a piano burning?
Just like the psychologically affecting horror of Hitchcock’s best works, Clipping prove here that they’re masters of pace and restraint. Pounding beats and angular synths leap out like well-timed jump scares only to fade back into the shadows, waiting for their next opportunity to strike. Diggs controls the momentum like a primeval force, his flow deftly oscillating between calm ocean and raging tide. Much like their song-to-song variability, Clipping have never felt the need to confine themselves to one stylistic choice. With experimentalism its only constant, Visions of Bodies further proves that Clipping follow no set path. Like the villain of an eighties horror flick, Clipping have no distinct target in mind; armed with all the tools they need, there’s no stylistic avenue they won’t go down. Visions of Bodies is the perfect crime: an enigmatic, unsolvable, technical achievement. If Clipping release a successor to this “second half of a planned diptych”, we could be in for an unholy triptych that would show the world that this band truly can get away with murder.