Clams Casino Clams CasinoRainforest EP
After the media coverage generated by “Instrumentals”, the mixtape on which they compiled some recordings that had been used before by people such as Lil B, the next logical step had to be to accentuate the composition side of their production and to release something with conceptual coherence, which is exactly what we find on Clams Casino’s anticipated debut on the Tri Angle label. The American producer has moved away from the functionality of his work so far, which was to be used by MCs, emphasising the ambient aspect of his sound and taking on his role as a writer rather than a producer, with five tracks meant as instrumental songs.
Another aspect that loses territory on this EP, apart from hip-hop and even the aesthetic of a label like Tri Angle, where Mike Volpe’s sound fits so well, is the space evoked by his music. The distancing from the street was already becoming clear on his previous productions, after all, they were so acclaimed because of their ambient sound and, therefore, the interior landscapes rather than the exterior, probably as a consequence of him being a bedroom producer. Despite the fact that his present label mates, such as How To Dress Well, Balam Acab and Holy Other are bedroom producers as well (something that can be verified with, for example, the timid and intimate character of their music), Clams Casino stands apart as he tries to evoke an abstract, exotic landscape in a subjective way, referenced also on the sleeve art and in titles like “Natural” and “Treetop”, maybe as a means to express his urban alienation by idolising an unreal and dreamt-up nature.
The main attraction of this EP is, therefore, the way nature is represented in Clams Casino’s music. The emphasis on the immersive character of his music made with computers and distributed via the Internet, is inevitably reminiscent of David Toop’s ideas about ambient. That way, the “Rainforest” EP turns into what David Toop said in his book “Ocean Of Sound”: “As the world has moved towards becoming an information ocean, so music has become immersive.” This immersion, proof of the attempt to manage the flood of digital information, can be observed in the slow, almost comatose rhythm, in the occasional sub-aquatic pulse, in the layers of sound, the distorted-beyond recognition voices and, most of all, in the whole itself, drenched in echo and reverb. Nature appears reflected in a blurry way, vague, but very expressive, between melancholy, nostalgia and a certain desensitised happiness. The sleeve art itself, with its fake colours, is the perfect announcement of the music. It’s an aesthetic that is very powerful, visually, close to Fauvism of painters like Matisse, and like the painting tendency, this American producer most of all creates a specific tone and texture, though he substitutes the bright colours with more realistic ones.
The main question Rainforest should raise, however, is up to which point Clams Casino’s ambient is closer to the passivity and escapism of new age. It’s an interesting question, because the starting point is the rhythmic arsenal of hip-hop, a music of which the evolution has always been dependent on the ability to react to the reality of the streets and to reflect the urban surroundings and the maker’s social demands in the music. The biggest risk in ambient is to foment passivity, although it’s not entirely clear that this is what’s happening here, and is maybe something that should be cleared up on future releases. Brian Eno left an opening that could be interpreted as an exit towards the passivity of ambient when he said that this kind of music should work on two levels: it can be “actively listened to with attention or as easily ignored, depending on the choice of the listener.” “Rainforest” works on those two levels, which increases its effectiveness, while at the same time it seems to point, via the synaesthetic and disorienting effects, as a personal version of psychedelica. I expect that Clams Casino’s best work is yet to come, but “Rainforest” is a clear step ahead in the solidification of the concept and results. Iván Conte