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Clams Casino released the 12 songs on this record into the world, appropriately enough, via Mediafire in March this year. They were jams he’d been working on from his mum’s house in New Jersey while he trained as a physiotherapist. Famously, he disregarded the crate-digging orthodoxy in favour of ripping songs by name off P2P network Limewire – simply typing “Blue” or “Ocean” and building a beat out of the results – and cold emailing out the results to new-rap stars like Lil B and Soulja Boy. It’s a new way to be a musician, and it worked –the Mediafire collecting a rumoured 100,000 downloads, Tri Angle brought out his EP ‘Rainforest’ last month, Type have reissued his ‘Instrumentals’ mixtape on deluxe vinyl. He’s famous, at least in our part of the world, the one which makes such people famous. That’s because Clams Casino makes totally new music which is some of the best in the world, seriously.
The songs on this album, five months on, have wormed their way into my mind. I’ve played them countless, countless times – firstly to myself, then in the office constantly, for friends who hadn’t heard them and, in the last few months, as the classics they are. Coming back for this review, the thing that’s so arresting is how astoundingly they are put together – they sound less arranged, more grown, with beats feeding, bleeding into one another like flora and fauna in some vast, digital eco-system. The name of his EP, ‘Rainforest’, is so, so fitting – Clams makes tunes that sound like ecologies, with each element folding in on itself, only to explode into life, elements interdependent on each other. Listen to how the samples crawl out, unknown and unrecognisable, of the undergrowth! Listen to how the tender, wordless vocal sample on All I Need, interacts with the flickering, buzzing noise scratched-rubber beat like two beasts nuzzling. And listening to this huge, overlapping sphere of sonics, you feel buried, enlivened, energised.
It’s the lightness of touch that Clams has that’s so striking. This is a producer – so, so rare these days! – who can leave a song alone, let his music breath and flow. Nothing here is overworked or overplayed, yet still there’s so much punch, so much vibe and melody in the songs. This quality is best heard on Numb. The first few times I listened to it, its melody seemed out-of-earshot somehow – more of an opulent soundscape to fall into, like a dream or a fever, than any structured tune. But playing it again, what’s so astounding is the sheer punch of the sound, the overwhelming feeling and joy that’s bursting from the song and the strength of the melody. This interacts with the other, deeply odd sense of his music. There’s the strangest sense that this music somehow bleeds out from the MP3s (or, thanks to Type, vinyl grooves), rippling out beyond what the actual song itself is. It’s a quite incredible example of what digital technology is capable of – to create, almost from scratch, worlds of infinite feeling that are both totally unseen but also very essential.
Which, despite its newness in music is a pretty old idea, I suppose. This is an album of astounding, astounding imagination and feeling which promises that Romantic notion of the sublime. So much music now seems to hint at little more than its solid existence as a digital file, but Clams’s 12 tracks hit on a rich, pure feeling – that of listening to deeper truth underneath the world, fearful, vast and brilliant.