Instrumentals Instrumentals


Clams Casino Clams CasinoInstrumentals

8.5 / 10


The fact that something is free, shouldn't be an excuse for it to be dodgy. The reissue of “Instrumentals” on vinyl – re-mastered so that the audio sounds impressive and bright - is good compensation for the bad sound of the mix tape Clams Casino uploaded last April for all of us to enjoy (though enjoy is a relative term, as the bitrate was almost criminal). On the one hand, we should be thankful the music was freely available. Originally titled “Instrumental Mixtape”, its presence on the internet helped establish Mike Volpe's name (until that moment he was a little know beat-maker with a studio in New Jersey) at the top of the present electronic underground - with the posterior release of “Rainforest EP” on the Tri Angle label - and in this case the means justified the end. That zip file included a wide range of beats Volpe, as the most sensitive producer in modern hip-hop, had made for the likes of Lil B, Souja Boy and Main Attrakionz. Music that, disconnected from the vocal contributions by the rappers, remained alive, passionate, and irresistibly beautiful.

But as we said, “free” shouldn't mean “dodgy”. That mix tape sounded terrible. This vinyl, however, sounds glorious: clean and deep, with Clams Casino's instrumentals proving even better than they had seemed. The Type label rightly considered that remastering the work and pressing it on vinyl was necessary, like the restoration of old films and releasing them on blu ray. After cleaning it up, “Instrumentals” becomes an unexpected modern classic - finding its place due to a strange turn of destiny. Over the past few months, there has been an almost asphyxiating amount of abstract beat albums (virtually all coming from California; many of them taking the opportunity now that FlyLo paved the way). The more records were being released, the smaller the surprises and the fewer the new details to be found in a sound where a priori remains interesting, yet more and more sees like a copy of something else. However, Clams Casino activates the pleasure areas of the nervous system immediately, his beats (simple really, with a delicate backdrop of synths, light synthetic strings and more melody than rhythm box) instantly put the endorphins in motion, in a natural way - adding some dream-pop details, some soundtrack music, shoegaze and pastoral pop to the dream-like textures. Strikingly, pieces like “Illest Alive”, “Realist Alive” and “Cold War” are based on “Bachelorette” (Björk), “Hometown Glory” (Adele) ad “Cold War” (Janelle Monáe), respectively, a method that is as simple in theory as satisfactory in practice.

The other coincidence is that the release of DJ Shadow's new album is around the corner, on 5th September (of which the advance tracks don't sound promising at all, more like another flirt in the vein of “The Outsider”). “Instrumentals” is not a new “Endtroducing…” and Clams Casino is not a producer as good as early Josh Davis, but his way of mixing psychedelic electronica, indie pop, sonic utopia and flirts with new age gives Volpe the best papers for the possible heritage - not of the technique but of the ability to evoke and have the emotional impact the San Francisco magician had with his two first masterpieces. It is as if we were witnessing a change of cycles, a necessary generational take-over in the modern school of beat-making coming from hip-hop but expanding to the whole of music without boundaries. What Clams Casino has achieved so far - and what he has released on Type and Tri Angle - is worthy of all that. In the future, we'll see: nobody is eternal. But the present is his, that's for sure.

Javier Blánquez

*Download “Instrumentals Mixtape”

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