Clipping.: Splendor & Misery
Experimental Hip-Hop outfit Clipping. release brand new concept album. Simon Tucker takes the journey.
Concept album. Two words that struck fear in the heart of many a discerning music fan a few decades ago forever entwined with YES and The Who and bloated ego. Over time though perceptions have changed aided by artists in various fields releasing albums that could be deemed “concept”. The Streets (A Grand Don’t Come For Free), The Membranes (Dark Matter/Dark Energy) and Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp A Butterfly) have all helped dampen the chills normally associated with the term “concept album” and have created works that have a coherent and exciting narrative running throughout. Concept albums are ok to like…
Clipping. (Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Snipes, William Hutson) have described Splendor & Misery as a “dystopian, Afrofuturist concept album that follows the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship, and the onboard computer that falls in love with him” and what is instantly obvious from a first listen is how well they have executed the story. Every song on here flows into the next with ease and the album is not meant to be broken down into single song listens. Turn off the shuffle button now..
From the opener ‘Long Way Away (intro)’ we are catapulted into the cosmos on a bed of white noise and static, disorientated as the ship gets taken over and we are left alone with our protagonist drifting in deep space.
As the story develops we learn that our lead character is fast becoming happy lost in space as the computer falls in love and wishes to protect him. He also learns that we as a species are insignificant in the grand scheme of things and this gives him a sense of contentment. He (Daveed) raps over the beats held within the spaceship’s hull and instrumentation using all as a base for him to create rhymes and stories.
The instrumentation on Splendor & Misery is glitchy and full of drone and white noise. It is metallic and technical yet adds pulses that give it a heartbeat and adds some flesh to the metallic skeleton.
Daveed’s lyrics and vocal delivery are on point throughout (no doubt aided by his lead role in the hit musical Hamilton for which he has won a Grammy and a Tony Award) firing on all cylinders when needed and paced and spacey when the atmosphere shifts.
It is obvious as you listen to the story that this is not just a fictional story about a man lost in space but a statement about the current crisis facing Black America. The fact the protagonist decides to turn away from finding other planets with Governments and rules shows us that this is a man breaking away from oppression and when songs like Long Way Away and Story 5 appear they remove the “space” narrative and play like old spirituals harking back to the early days of slavery. These are incredibly powerful moments and help tie the album into the past, the now, and the future.
Splendor & Misery is a wonderful trip. It is a narrative you can get lost in and is built so well that not a moment on here feels wasted or superfluous. A sonic trip to deep space with a powerful message. A concept you can all get behind.