Clipping. in Brighton 20.10.2013
CLIPPING. Brighton, UK. 20/10/2013 at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar.
For the uninitiated, Clipping are a rap group from LA with pretty extreme noise based beats that draw heavily on concrete technique. Imagine Throbbing Gristle fronted by a less stoned, hyper Snoop and you might get somewhere in the vague area of comprehension about what to expect. If pushed I could make a lazy comparison to Death Grips, Anti-pop Consortium or (Sub Pop label mates) Shabazz Palaces but that would do a disservice to all of those acts as each has carved out a particular niche and each feels peerless. Public Enemy once challenged headz to turn it up and Bring The Noise.
Clipping have taken that literally.
The band consists of composer/sound designer Jonathan Snipes, noise artist William Hutson and rapper Daveed Diggs. Although Snipes and Hutson come from a hardcore academic background, their performance isn’t your average, meandering, wank-over-a-laptop-and-controller noise set. The sound is structured, focused, backs the narrative that Diggs is putting across and generally has a point that is immediate to grasp (without explanatory pdf). It’s avant-garde but visceral; stimulating emotion and intelligence equally. Snipes and Hutson are doing far more live sound creation and manipulation than seems to be required these days (Hacker Farm are similarly hands-on with their live sets) and they want you to dance! Diggs is an incredible front man and astounding rapper. He employs triplet raps, odd syncopation, rapid fire machine gun delivery and sung hooks with ease. He has the confidence and presence to confront and challenge his audience, yet inspires rather than threatens. This may be due, in part, to the fact that he genuinely looks like he’s having fun and has a smile that could melt tarmac.
I must say a few words about local band Hypnotized, who supported. I’d listened to some of their songs ahead of time and couldn’t really see the connection (I quickly and harshly judged them as MGMT wannabes) but they were a different beast live. Psychedelic pop sensibility but with an interesting sonic edge; a couple of songs brought to mind a more innocent, less angry, Suicide. One song came off like Spacemen 3 crossed with early era 808 State. I can’t help feeling that 20 years ago an interesting young band like this would’ve been snapped up by a large indie label but in the current industry climate who knows what lies ahead for them.
I spent the 20 minutes between sets feeling really disappointed in Brighton because there were only 23 people in the venue and “I know it’s Sunday but it’s CLIPPING and it’s FREE!”. But suddenly at bang on 9.45, Clipping took to the stage, someone opened some invisible hipster floodgates and people started streaming in. Diggs informed us that “The gig doesn’t officially begin until my sunglasses go on”. Said shades were donned and the brutal noise of Midcity opener Intro was unleashed. Snipes was breaking and crushing a small container of glass with a contact mic and the resulting signal was processed with delays, making an unusual but great noise. Hutson’s controlled feedback pierced the speakers and rhythm was supplied solely via Daveed Diggs’ metronomic spoken word delivery. He urges us to “make noise” but the Brightonian crowd is a little too cool for school and has not fully warmed to the Clipping magic yet. Diggs is quietly confident that he’ll “get us there” and the set carries on They played most of Midcity and some new material.
Get.It – Diggs’ intro: “Imagine a nightclub, the sweatiest club you ever been to…unless this is it” (lyric – “club smelling like ass” – especially apt as this basement venue is pretty ripe!). The pitch-down bass drops were immense. For a small venue Sticky Mike’s sound is really quite good, they’ve clearly given acoustics considerable thought and made the most of the space and their budget.
Bout.That – Monster, hook laden track from Midcity. Guaranteed to get any party started.
Story – Diggs comes right out into the audience to tell the Story. Nice touch.
Ladies(?) – “This one’s for the ladies” says Diggs. That’d be me then. I went to jungle and D&B nights in the 90s and MCs would say this same line to intro a track and it would be some kind of really patronizing smooth ‘sexy’ shit designed for body winding. This was in no way that, and therefore very refreshing. I couldn’t make out all the lyrics so I’m not sure whether I should be offended by the “All she needs you for is your dick and your veins” refrain but I’ll read it as an acknowledgement of women’s power and independence. For now!
Or.Die – Love this new track. Huge sleazy hip-hop beat, with big blasts of noise at the end (a technique previously employed by Neubauten to great effect). Diggs got the crowd to fill the silences between the blasts with their own noise.
Jump – Another awesome new one. These tracks are making me even more excited about the new LP on Sub Pop than I already was.
Guns.Up – The lyric goes “we’re what the game’s been missing” and they’re right. I wasn’t particularly into the ‘guns up’ chorus hook on record but it really works live. By this point the audience had been utterly won over and everyone had their arms in the air for the guns.up rallying call.
Face – Set closer. I thought it was new but it actually pre-dates Midcity (dba118 EP, 2012). Diggs starts by telling us the script. Classic hip-hop call and response you say? Yeah. With a difference: “When I say ‘Dick in ya’, you say ‘Face’” / “When I say ‘Clit in ya’, you say ‘Face’” / “When I say ‘Gun in ya’, you say ‘Face’”. Snipes and Hutson drop the beat, but wait… it’s (unexpectedly) a speedy, banging techno workout?! The crowd tries valiantly to keep up. Diggs spits out words like they’re bullets from an AK. He and we are only given let up from the relentless doof doof by the truncated beat/rap of the refrain “Fuck. Shit. Up. Bitch!”This whole thing could be considered offensive, but it’s at least equal opportunities offence! And feels playful. Gun in cheek, even…
Last year Kanye West took to Twitter to ask whether it’s ever acceptable to use the word ‘bitch‘. Aaron Paul (whose character Jesse in Breaking Bad uses it a lot) hilariously retweeted Kanye’s post, adding a simple “I hope so”.
As Diggs finishes his performance with the requisite “It’s Clipping. Bitch!”, WE ALL DO TOO.