How do you follow up one of the most memorable and imaginative hip hop records of recent years? I’m hesitant to claim this is ‘more of the same’, but there is a clear sense of continuation with Visions of Bodies Being Burned. It’s noisy, extremely detailed, and at times, absolutely harrowing. Clipping. have mastered this style of horrorcore, though with only a year between this and There Existed an Addiction to Blood I wonder if some of the novelty has worn off. Perhaps it’s my fault – I did play that record to death, after all. It was my favourite album of 2019 by quite a margin.
The differences lie in the details. Visions is more abrasive than its predecessor, with tracks like “Something Underneath” and “Make Them Dead” occupied by harsh noise. Strangely, it’s also more melodic, at least in places. The excellent “Enlacing” is carried by a somewhat soulful sample, with Daveed Diggs even contributing some sung vocals himself. Overall, Diggs is as spectacular here as he was on Blood, perhaps even more so. His rhymes are quick-witted and intricate, controlled with enough care, and a degree of flawlessness, to make you wonder whether he is the real villain behind the horror story. Always one step ahead: covering his tracks, leaving no traces behind.
While I think Blood is a more cohesive album from start to finish, I’d argue that Visions has stronger individual moments. “Say the Name” opens with less tension than Blood's “Nothing is Safe”, but it develops in similar fashion, before landing to a rewarding conclusion. “Check the Lock” is the grooviest cut from either album, yet still manages to retain a sense of fear. I don’t think I’ve ever bopped my head to such a distressing tale of paranoia. Then there’s “Pain Everyday”: a stunning centrepiece that builds with unrivalled tension and rises to a sensational climax. The level of detail and design in the breakbeats is simply remarkable. It’s one of the most gripping pieces of music clipping. has released to date.
As much as I enjoy Visions, I can’t shake the feeling that much of it is comprised of ideas and afterthoughts that occupied the space of Blood. Last year’s album feels like a more complete experience. I certainly don’t feel the same sense of dread here, despite the added harshness and eery interludes. I’d never claim to be disappointed by Visions, and I’ll be recommending it just as much as I was Blood for all those months. Clipping. can continue releasing these types of records for years and I likely won’t get tired, such is the brilliance of their formula, but the thought of something entirely new is what excites me most. Maybe not a Christmas album.
7 out of 10
Although I’ve enjoyed listening to Visions of Bodies Being Burned and have no hesitation recommending it, I don’t actually feel all that strongly about the album one way or the other. It is beautifully made and beautifully produced, with some belting tracks and velvety smooth flows. I guess it just lacks a certain wow factor.
The good stuff deserves its dues. There’s a lot of it. Clipping. is a pleasure to listen to, interweaving lyricism with instrumentation to produce something from a shadowy void between hip hop and gothic poetry readings. Not a million miles away from the Saul Williams album we reviewed a while back, though this is more stylish.
“Check the Lock” and “‘96 Neve Campbell” were standout moments for me, though the track list has enough variety for favourites to change depending on one’s tastes. I have to admit the glitchy electronic stuff — which I’m always ready to hate — works terribly well here. Even when it’s shredding your eardrums the record is enchantingly grotesque.
That’s Visions at its best, which isn’t a level it quite holds throughout. Always a tall order when an album is nearly an hour long. Overall it feels (admittedly super) solid but not much more than that. For me it’s a crisp, clean echo of There Existed an Addiction to Blood, and that’s nothing to sniff at.
7 out of 10
It’s impossible to talk about this album without mentioning There Existed an Addiction to Blood, one of the very best avant garde hiphop albums of the past few years. Its themes, identity, and conceit are all continued in Visions of Bodies Being Burned, only this time the foundations are overtaken by the house. Clipping. has iterated on last year’s cinematic qualities, mastering the concept and pushing harder on the experience of listening to it, delivering something that’s confident, merciless, and complete.
Scenes play out from a lost horror movie’s screenplay from track to track — the film is incomplete, but a sense of narrative is still intact. It’s challenging to define and endlessly open to interpretation, and the layers to Diggs’ writing and deliveries do as much for this as the gaps in the narrative. His abilities are the beating heart of clipping.’s sound, and on Visions he opens fresh drawers in his toolbox.
Where the preceding album was a regular display of impressive technical skills, on this outing he drills into a creative vein with intense, but sparing, frequency. Every so often he unleashes the horses, amping up his tempo, shifting dynamics mid-bar, rolling out line after line like a rapping gatling gun. Each time he brings out the set-pieces they’re distinct and inventive, moving on from past ideas and showcasing more like they’ll never stop coming. He seems entirely at home in the environment, swaggering through his own Lovecraftian nightmare and kitesurfing down the Styx. It’s hard to argue that Daveed Diggs isn’t a member of rapping’s top tier, especially after this.
The production, meanwhile, is masterful, tying together a concept that demands attention but never stops rewarding it. Instance after instance sounds like a brand new idea, or at least a refinement on their horrorcore experiment that carves out something more. Nothing else sounds like this, and yet it’s so clear in its vision. At first I was struggling to see past the disappointment that clipping. weren’t trying something completely new, but now it’s hard to find fault with the experience. The sequencing is so deliberate and carefully implemented, with tracks like “Make Them Dead” and Invocation tenderising you before the onslaughts of “She Bad” and “Pain Everyday. It’s hard not to gush about “Pain Everyday” and the way it feels like you’re experiencing four tracks at once, glitching and clipping into each other like a fracture in time and space. It’s striking, brutal, and unbelievably well-realised. I can’t imagine how much work went into creating it.
That’s the album as a whole — a relentless and unpredictable work that feels like the spawn of a Satanic ritual in a theme park. It’s oppressive and challenging, but also warm and charming, reminiscent of the horror works of Stephen King and Spielberg but unreservedly unique. There Existed an Addiction to Blood was a remarkable surprise that struck at something otherwise untold, but Visions of Bodies Being Burned replaces the novelty with conceptual perfection.
10 out of 10