Taking his name from that meme of the guy in the club who appears to be having a sudden epiphany, the music off the Clarence Clarity’s wily debut, No Now, is an accurate musical depiction of that moment. All sorts of madness are coming at you from all directions, but in the center you have this voice that is soulful and pleading, sometimes in a smooth way, other times in a writhing manner that is being spit in and out of the sounds surrounding it. No Now is not especially immediate, but it’s not as difficult as that description sounds. There are grooves and hooks that make it through the mess, and the fact that they often correspond with the swirling noise is actually pretty fascinating.
Falling somewhere between the ADD of Ariel Pink’s pom pom, the sonic destruction of Death Grips, and the indie electro-R&B of Autre Ne Veut, No Now is a cataclysm of sounds that can at times confuse and disorient, but when in the right frame of mind can be enlightening. At 20 tracks and 63 minutes, the assault is occasionally overwhelming, especially when you make it into the album’s final quarter – The fuzzy robot stomp of “The Gospel Truth” for instance comes in at track 16, and its glittery blitz is enough to make you feel like you put 10 sugar packets in your coffee. Likewise, the six-minute “With No Fear” is a gorgeous ballad for about half that time before shutting down and turning into a digital nightmare.The amount of great moments though reign supreme over any over-active experimentation. “Alive in the Septic Tank” takes some Bollywood vocal score and warps it up before going into a full-on epic synth-padded climax, and “Those Who Can’t, Cheat” plays like it could have come straight off of Beck’s Midnight Vultures.
When thinking of what No Now creates in its hyperactive world, the jittery bombast of of Montreal is another factor that comes to mind, as well as the short-circuited R&B of Jai Paul. On “Bloodbarf,” Clarence takes a pile of jingling sounds, mixes it with some sleazy funk, but then features one of the most full-hearted melodies on the whole album. Clarence’s vocal is pleading, but also barely decipherable, and fighting against an onslaught of noisy agents that eventually take over and turn the track into static, before starting it up again. The record’s general feeling of being on the brink of destruction at all times is invigorating, especially when it threatens to undo a beautiful song, like “Cancer in the Water,” which is a late gamer track that features a feel-good choir vocal with ‘80s synths, that sounds like I could combust at any moment. Think of those times when your Nintendo starts fritzing, but where you can still make out the characters enough to keep playing. That I feel is the essential greatness of the album – the fact that everything sounds as if it is caving in around you, but where you say “fuck it,” and get your last bit of fun out of it before it shuts down forever.