Clams Casino’s Debut Is on Another Level
If there’s any artist out there worth signing up for Apple Music, it’s Clams Casino. When the album first came out, the producer’s debut album, 32 Levels, could only be streamed from this service–and it’s worth every bit of Apple Music’s inconvenience and poorly constructed interface. Clams Casino’s trademarked brand of airy, glacially paced beats create lush soundscapes for a slew of rappers to wax lyrical over. Of course, Apple Music isn’t the only place to find 32 Levels. The deluxe double LP (featuring instrumental versions of all the tracks) is now available.
While there is an introductory track, the album truly starts with the one two punch of “Be Somebody” and “All Nite.” Both tracks have the cathedral thick instrumentals that make a Clams Casino track a Clams Casino track. No one can match his production style. But what pushes his beats to the 32nd level is the guest rappers. “Be Somebody” is a double onslaught of A$AP Rocky and Lil B. Both in this track and in his other appearances (“Witness,” “32 Levels”), Lil B proves he can do more than drone about Ellen Degeneres and Justin Bieber. “All Nite” lets Vince Staples does what he does best–flow confident. Like a Long Beach James Joyce, Vince Staples’ ability to be within the scenes he creates while painting an unbiased picture is second to none. Whenever Staples grabs a mic, he shows his hometown with unflinching exactness.
32 Levels follows these initial hits with taut tracks. While most of the album stays well within Clams Casino’s down-tempo gauzy brand of ethereal electronica, the producer is able to stack tracks so that, while his style doesn’t shift much, there’s enough shuffling as the album unfurls to keep things from getting repetitive. 32 Levels is an album that has no tricks so to speak–there’s no single track that comes out of left field. The album gives exactly what one would expect from a Clams Casino album.
That said, there’s a three song stream that shows a poppier said of the producer. Starting with “Back to You” and ending with “Breath Away,” the stream eschews the whirring pops and heaven-deep soundscapes that defined the first third of the album for more straightforward pop music. Still lush even as Clams Casino tries to flatten his style (perhaps in an attempt to have a radio friendly mid-tempo track), these songs offer a good break before the album wraps up. The final song in this trio, “Breath Away” seems to be the strongest. Featuring vocal work by Kelela, the song is reminiscent of the just-left-of-mainstream RnB (think Dawn Richard).
Interestingly enough, the album ends with one of the only truly instrumental tracks, “Blast.” The song exhibits why Clams Casino is such a force in the production world. His ability to keep a track hook filled while repeating the same sample for nearly three minutes is second to none. “Blast” bubbles with an effervescence that juxtaposes the darker depths of the track. As much a microcosm to the album in whole as it is a part of 32 Levels, “Blast” wraps up the record well. Clams Casino is not trying to pull a bait and switch. Each track on 32 Levels unfurls exactly how one would expect. But Clams Casino’s skill at creating a song makes this a feat impossible to anyone else. While 32 Levels won’t win over people who dislike the producer’s style, it will not disappoint even his most critical fans.