Clarence Clarity – UNRECORDED HISTORY (Self-released, 2022)

The sound of the movie theatre behind closed doors, the thump of the club beyond the entrance, the roar of the party rising as you climb the steps: noise as anticipation, as invitation.

I’ve had a fascination with this idea since Byetone’s 2008 Death of a Typographer (Raster-Noton), whose opener “Into Bios” transitions from field recordings off the streets to walk into the sounds of a club in full-flow Techno. The effect there is also repeated in the receding smokiness of closer “Heart”, leaving the confines of the dissolving IDM tunes to light up a cigarette in the quiet night beyond the musical space, rave well done.

But while DoaT sandwiches its fourth wall breaking ambiences with a full album of electronic tunes, UNRECORDED HISTORY is an entire entity of pieces divided by a veil. A concept record of sorts (what CC album isn’t?) all the tracks here tap out at frequencies above ~1kHz. The result? 11 pieces that sound like they’ve been recorded underwater, smothered by pillows, felt through the walls. Clarity is the furthest word from the truth in this case.

Naturally there’s a certain frustration to be tempered here. There are clearly some excellent hooks submerged in the processing that will never see the light of day (“The Mary Rose”, “Millennial Dread”, “Coup D’etat”), so obvious that we can hear their potential through the muffling. Regardless, all disappear into the flattening, Clarence’s vocals capped and smudged and unintelligible, voice and inseparable instrumentation smearing into bleary, yet strangely compulsive, amorphousness.

Only on rare fleeting moments do things rise from the mire: lightning-blast yelps between the RnB grooving on “God, Let There Be Light”; twinkling piano romances underlying “The Mary Rose” and closer “Before Christ”, the latter also slipping through some suggestive spoken word fragments.

I’ll admit I’m insanely curious on what the originals of some (ok, all) of these sound like, and yet I know it’ll take something away from the deliberate aquatic distancing imposed upon us as part of the listening experience. I love these tracks for what they are: sirens and seducers. Unknowns that tantalise us in all sorts of directions, preventing us from pursuing them to their source and unwrapping their delicious completeness, even when we can obviously see their quality. Gratification is withheld as we exist in that space right at the precipice.

Dunk YOUR WRONG into battery acid and then listen to it inside a fish tank and you’ll have some idea what this is like.