Producer extraordinaire Michael Volpe made his name by helping other artists find their voices – and they perhaps need to return the favour
Clams Casino catapulted himself into the cultural sphere at the start of the decade. With layered, greasy bass underneath haunting synths and staccato drums, Casino’s productions stood out on A$AP Rocky’s breakthrough project ‘Live.Love.A$AP’. Casino went on to collaborate with renowned artists like Lil B, Mac Miller, The Weekend and Schoolboy Q, all the while remaining distinctive as an artist in his own right. His second solo album, ‘Moon Trip Radio’, is a heavily experimental record that finds Casino attempting to forge an identity in a new genre.
Over these 11 tracks, Clams directs us away from the aforementioned sounds we would usually associate with him. There are bursts of atmospheric ambience and melodic guitars, metronomic drums that nestle deeply within the grooves of the track and twirls of soundscape wrap themselves around the production. But it all feels so slight like the smallest touch can knock it down. He weaves, dabs and ducks but doesn’t punch, offering very little of substance on this self-released new project.
Songs such as ‘Cupid Wing’ do stand-out, as he manages to throw together hi-hats, synths and warped, glitchy vocals – but it’s over before it begins. ‘Moon Trip Radio’ would have benefitted from gruff vocals; perhaps those of Ghostface Killah, whose uncompromising delivery was so effectively offset by Toronto band BadBadNotgood’s smooth jazz sounds on their collaboration ‘Sour Soul’; you can imagine Ghostface, er, killing it over tracks such as ‘Healing’ and ‘Soliloquy’. Could Clams could have taken samples or rap verses and played them over his spectral instrumentals?
Though ‘Fire Blue’ features a decent warped, slowed down vocal, it’s ultimately pretty forgettable stuff. The likes of ‘Twilit’, ‘Glowing Bones’ and ‘Lyre’ are similarly bland.
Casino’s foray into experimental ambience has plenty of faults. There are moments of clarity – especially with the glistening synths and valiant attempts to craft a meditative piece – but it appears he’s trying to do too much by not doing enough. If this is the path Clams Casino wants to go down, the production needs to sound less like the soundtrack to a sci-fi movie. Only then can he re-discover his identity within the genre.
Release date: November 8
Record label: Clams Casino Productions LLC