Clipping., the inconceivable spoken-word, minimalist electronic, but still innovative group from Los Angeles tries their hand at an album full of concepts of the unknown, dystopia, and the “Afrofuturism.”
Splendor and Misery is an interesting breed of an album, the minimalist approach to the instrumentation allows for the vocalization from Daveed Diggs to shine through and become the monumental point of Clipping.’s music. The concept of Splendor and Misery follows “the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship, and the onboard computer that falls in love with him. Thinking he is alone and lost in space, the character discovers music in the ship’s shuddering hull and chirping instrument panels” (Taken from Clipping.’s BandCamp page).
The concept leads the background instrumentation into strange bouncing percussion and the use of different beeping and blips which makes the entire album feel like an outer space journey. The first tracks “Long Way Away (Intro),” and “The Breach” follows this use of a near church-like chorus that discusses “follow(ing) the stars when the sun goes to bed, till everything I’ve ever known is long dead.” The lyrics constantly reflect this Slave uprising story and each track flows so well, that it honestly feels like listening to one long audiobook that varies on speed and atmospheric sounds used.
“The Breach” is a full speed blast of lyrics from Diggs to the point where it is outstanding the way he keeps the pace and is near impossible to understand exactly what he says even through multiple listens. The following track “All Black” is the first attempt at what sounds more like a Clipping. track. It is still following the use of spoken word, but the layering that follows Diggs’ voice still keeps the track feeling intense and claustrophobic.
The entirety of Splendor and Misery follows this very restless and overall claustrophobic style. Each track feels so tight, but also feels like a journey through the vast darkness that is space. It is an album of constant switching emotion from the split-personality of “Wake Up” to the use of more chorus sounding tones on “Long Way Away.”
Clipping. did a great job of using constant radio static, alarms, pounding metallic percussion, and the use of space to create this near-cinematic level story that relies on the use of atmosphere to illustrate this gigantic, hulking machine floating through outer space.
The track “Air ‘Em Out” is the first track that actually feels like a complete track with multiple verses, a chorus, and varying levels of instrumentation. Diggs still controls the entire track and the music just feels like it is there to give his lyrics more impact, Splendor and Misery could have been released without any instrumentation and it still would have been able to survive on just vocalization alone.
The following track “Break The Glass” goes back into the use of atmospheric sounds and drowning noises to create the beat. There is this constant use of steam, machine creaks, and what sounds like drums made out of steel beams to illustrate a fully working beast of iron and different metals.
Following is “Story 5” which again switches to the use of choruses to give more insight into perhaps what were songs being sung by the slaves before the uprising. These tracks mix up the action from the intense metallic assaults of the ship, to the then authentic and honestly beautiful voices from multiple singers. They work together to complement each other and the following track “Baby Don’t Sleep” goes right back into the synthetic sounds of a large ship with Diggs rattling off some quick verses.
The final track of Splendor and Misery is the cheeriest track on the entire album and while I personally like the track, I feel like the instrumentation is of a different style than the rest of the album. “A Better Place” as the track’s title suggest follows this use of what sounds like an organ that plays over a rapidly tapping boom-bap beat with a nice little bass drum roll fill in-between the tracks chorus and verses. The track then fades into the loud radio static heard so many times before, then straight into nothing, just silence.
The constant style change keeps Splendor and Misery interesting enough to work not as a musical album, but more as a complex art project of spoken word and atmospheric sounds. It feels like listening to an audio book rather than a record, but is still able to tell a complex story that is still interesting to hear over and over again.