“I have a day to day general anxiety disorder, and this is the kinda music I make when I don’t know what else to do with myself,” writes Clarence Clarity, as he casually releases Dead Screen Scrolls on Bandcamp. “Didn’t know if I was ever gonna release it, but thought it might help in this weird situation right now.” These gorgeous, unrestrained compositions are easy to become engulfed in, and that’s their purpose. Usually known for ironic maximalist pop, these compositions read like spiritual mutations of his past work, rich layers of vocals and keys paulstretched beyond recognition.
But there’s still melody and pulse to be heard in ‘Facts vs Time’, where crackles of his R&B-inflected vocal peek through, or ‘Late Bloomer’, where washes of organ ripple like a more optimistic take on Tim Hecker’s Harmony in Ultraviolet. The short collection is a wonderful warped approach to his musical identity, which already read like a lost history of pop culture being ran on a PS2 emulator and then chucked in a blender. While he may never have intended it to be more than a distraction, it functions brilliantly as just that.
With the music industry in stasis, artists are finding creative ways to connect with their listeners. Low-budget livestreams, meme-y covers of Alanis Morrissette, and surprise releases of half-sketched ideas have brought calm and community to many over the past few weeks. When Bandcamp made the brilliant move to waive its revenue share to support its musicians, fans heeded the call, spending $4.3 million on music and merch. Many bigger bands decided to release material for free to keep us all occupied.
It’s been an oddly abundant time for great music. To my ears, the glorious caustic ambient of Clarence Clarity, among a few others, connects deeply right now. There’s an awkward “SAY SOMETHING” reaction to writing about a crisis like COVID-19. Attempting to be poignant about something we cannot yet comprehend is a difficult task. Ambient music has the benefit of avoiding easy categorisation. The listener is free to attach their own story onto these songs, or just detach from this world and dive into the one Clarence Clarity has made for us.
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