Clarence Clarity – Dead Screen Scrolls (2020)

Five weeks into our lockdown and it’s hard to differentiate one day from the next. Dates have become meaningless, the entire month of April has passed with little fanfare, and whilst I have come to accept the reality of our situation, a strangeness still pervades the waking hours. At times I feel restless, at war with the oppressive walls of my own home; others I feel relaxed, embracing the slow pace of life with the fine weather and the new-found urban quiet that has descended. I do what I can to still feel tethered, attached to this weird world.

Clarence Clarity is known more for his maximalist bombast, his Glitch/Art/Noise Pop creations often overflowing with textural madness and density, enigmatic lyrics topping off the eclecticism with poetically nihilistic aphorisms. But Dead Screen Scrolls, much like the abrupt stall hitting us all presently, sees that normality reversed and brought to a crushing, haunting, stop.

Where once lay highways of kaleidoscopic electronic fervour now lie swirling ethereal atmospherics, introspective dreamlands lost inside of themselves. Time slinks deceptively by here, as in the slow motion “Paint, Drying” whose slow tolling bells punctuate spectral choral vocal effects and drone processions. All the time in the world, but what to do with it? It feels oddly liberating and radiant, hopeful even, yet infected with a sense of unsteadiness that quells potential progress.

Much of the record lies in this off-axis realm of cerebral textures and unsure feeling: non-specific “The Home of English Football” turns in a gently rotating daze, endlessly folding over itself with a timeless, if inexplicable, beauty in unquantifiable, glowing tones. “33rd December” burbles out of space and time, lost in suspending holiday energy, clinging to some piece of the year it just lost as it resists this new decade and its impending chaos.

Given its release right before the start of the lockdown, the virus is directly referred to in penultimate “COVID-19”. It loops ominously, a swimming field of electronic flutterings and warped voice that depressingly dies away it its final third as though some squashing force squeezes the life out of it. It disappears into the echoic distance, wasting away into the darkness that has consumed us in recent months.

I often joke of the “multiverse”, of how we’ve somehow ended up in the timeline with Trump and Brexit and COVID altogether, and the closing piece here “(Maybe) In Another Timeline We’re Still Good (But I Doubt It)” makes reference to this notion. Fractal avenues surge out of the mix, vocal fragments flittering through the rifts between the synth pulsations in a dream of possibility: somewhere, in an alternate timeline is an alternate version of us without all our mistakes, all our burdens, all of this. Maybe they’re doing ok, and even if such an ideal doesn’t exist, well, there’s still hope for us yet.

Another day calls.