New Jersey's white hip-hop producer Mike Volpe, aka Clams Casino,
debuted with the instrumental pieces of
the EP Rainforest (2011), notably Gorilla,
in an ethereal chillwave style
a` la How To Dress Well
that was replicated in the wordless
trip-hop ballads of the mixtape Instrumentals (Type, 2011) that
reappropriated music composed by him for rappers and sounded like a cousin
of the chillwave movement when it focused on
soothing melodies and surreal arrangements:
the oneiric, martial, heavily-reverbed Realist Alive,
whose invocations recall Enya & Enigma's Return to Innocence;
the tidal waves of electronic distortion and mashed vocals of
All I Need, lulled in an Enya-esque ecstasy;
the metamorphoses of Motivation,
from the opening of mournful humming amid electronic drones to the
thundering drums and the jungle sounds;
the melodramatic gravity of Real Shit From A Real Nigga;
and the music-box lullaby of The World Needs Change, obtained by slowing down the singing.
Volpe's production skills in the
industrial nightmare of Brainwash By London and in the
Bjork-ian polyrhythmic scream-fest Illest Alive almost go unnoticed
in the middle of so many melodic gems.
It was followed by three more volumes:
Instrumentals 2 (2012),
Instrumentals 3 (2013) and
Instrumentals 4 (2017).
Meanwhile, Clams Casino had become
a high-profile producer after crafting the murky, claustrophobic beats of
Lil B's I'm God (2009) and
A$AP Rocky's debut mixtape Live Love Asap (2011),
notably the beats for Palace and Bass.
In particular, Volpe produced Vince Staples' debut double album Summertime '06 (2015), a much more interesting work.
32 Levels (Columbia, 2016) was Clams Casino's short full-length debut,
a collaboration with guest rappers and singers.
It was really two albums in one. The first six songs were delivered by
Lil B (notably Witness) and other rappers (notably Vince Staples in All Nite).
This side offered a more polished version of his trademark production tricks.
The other side offered radio-friendly pop and R&B ballads performed by a
cast of guest singers (Sam Dew, Mikky Ekko, Future Islands' Samuel Herring, Kelela, Joe Newman, Kelly Zutrau).
The album contains only two brief instrumentals (notably Blast).
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