London producer and pop music Frankenstein Clarence Clarity doesn’t so much defy conventions as use them all at once. He throws whatever ideas he can wrap his brain around into a cauldron that bubbles over with funkified beats. This is maximalist music for the internet age, designed for minds that can’t be bothered to scroll to the bottom of the page but click ever onward toward the next moment of ecstasy.
So it’s fitting that Clarity borrows his name from an internet meme known as “Sudden Clarity Clarence,” in which a young man stares off into the distance from the middle of a dancefloor, contemplating eternity or who knows what. Clarity the artist always seems to be teetering on the threshold of another mind-blowing revelation, though what he ends up producing is not your typical “clarity.” Those seeking coherence or sharp delineations within his songs will likely leave confused and exasperated. It’s far more effective to let the waves of information wash over you than it is to pinpoint the mechanism behind the tides.
No Now is Clarity’s debut album, but we’ve seen shades of his messianic act before. Prince is one touchstone, both for his larger-than-life persona and his willingness — groundbreaking at the time — to mash together elements of dance, funk, rock, and pop. Ariel Pink comes to mind as a more recent inspiration, as Clarity seems to cop a large chunk of his modus operandi from Pink’s love of pop experimentation and eagerness to put his personality at the center of everything.
The press release that accompanies No Now is laughable at best and insufferable at worst. “The NO NOW is my bubble of clarity. The ongoing wow hovering in stasis, with the blinds down and the world a forgotten dream,” writes Clarity, going on to quote The Notorious B.I.G. His tongue may be slightly in cheek, but it’s clear that this is a man on a self-perceived mission from God, or whatever has replaced God in 2015.
“Become Death” kicks off the record with a celebratory overture that launches into the fierce “Will to Believe”, a song that squibbles from side to side without ever really risking losing its audience. The same holds true for “Alive in the Septic Tank” and “Bloodbarf”, both of which are deeply rooted in the modern archetypes of pop and hip-hop. Basically, Clarity is doing with music here what David Lynch has so expertly done with film. He creates strange worlds that orbit around convention, using the contrast to make these worlds all the more strange and yet, somehow, more familiar.
No Now is a 20-song rollercoaster of an album, and the listener will feel every minute of its length. Clarity deserves credit for throwing in the kitchen sink on his first try, and it will be interesting to see if his development involves a narrowing or widening of vision. Songs like the back-to-back “1-800-WORSHIP” and “The Gospel Truth” suggest that he sees himself as a true savior of music. His head will need to get even bigger to accommodate whatever comes next.
Essential Tracks: “Will to Believe”, “Bloodbarf”, and “The Gospel Truth”