Album review: The exhilarating strangeness of Clarence Clarity’s “THINK: PEACE”
“You’d rather be the next best thing, I’ll be the best,” Clarence Clarity sings in a breathy pop croon on his second album “THINK: PEACE.”
This sentiment sums up his career thus far — quietly honing his craft to an other-worldly level of perfection outside of the public spotlight. Working solely as an independent artist since 2013 and releasing his first album “No Now” in 2015, Clarity hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of recognition he deserves outside of internet circles.
Clarence Clarity’s maximalist, electronic, noisy and experimental take on pop and R&B is some of the most interesting and thrilling music released this decade and is deserving of everyone’s attention.
“THINK: PEACE” is a rare case of a musical achievement that has a perplexingly timeless sound. The album plays with nostalgic motifs reminiscent of 1980s “New Wave” while altering and adding to those elements in bold ways. It’s simultaneously the soundtrack of the past and distant future.
This interplay between the past and future is played with conceptually in his lyrics along with his instrumentals as he repeats lines and choruses in new contexts throughout the album, like in the songs “Adam and the Evil*” and “Naysayer, Magick Obeyer.”
Clarity addresses topics that feel urgent and will only become more so with future advances in technology. “Tru(e) Love” talks about the ability to edit one’s personality in online dating and the dangers of being caught up in virtual reality, “Naysayer, Magick Obeyer” speaks to paranoia and false perceptions and “Law of Fives” chronicles a disillusioned mental breaking point. The final track, “2016,” repeats the lyric “In time / we’ll learn” over haunting piano, cynically making the point that human problems are present no matter the era.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that “THINK: PEACE” is a sonically somber record based on the description of its themes. The sheer number of instrumental layers in these songs will make even the most pretentious headphone users giddy with pleasure. The production is assaulting and overwhelming in the best way possible, constantly shifting from one sample or sound effect to another in a seamless fashion.
“W€ CHANG£” is a perfect illustration of this explanation. Choppy vocals blend with a repeated horror-movie-sounding synth line while intermittent samples and percussion are thrown into the mix. All of this leads to a further electronic buildup that turns into a cacophony of effects, only to sporadically turn into a salsa-inspired instrumental and then fade into a spoken-word outro. This is only one example of the disorienting and exhilarating world Clarence Clarity has created.
Whether it is fast, slow, soaring, grimy, paced or abrupt, Clarence Clarity commands the listener’s attention on “THINK: PEACE.” One can’t help but be swept up into the madness and confusion of Clarity’s electronic wonderland. To hear what the future sounds like, look no further than this beautiful sonic patchwork.