If there’s anything you should have learned by now about Clipping. it’s that they are seriously attuned to the importance of the body as a site of meaning, politics, and knowledge. In that sense, they are perhaps among the most “post-modern” rap/hip-hop/noise acts out there (though Pharmakon and her nightmarish experiments with the body certainly comes to mind as well). Seeing the body as more than just a biological, objective, and inherently reducible collection of parts, as a fertile ground for power to operate on, is one of the hallmarks of post-modern thought. It’s what enabled some of the most important insights of the movement into politics and how they operate in the day to day; the body is often the transmitter and the territory through and on which power operates.
If all of that seems like high-brow nonsense, consider the following: BMI, one of the main statistics that define bodily health in the US, is an extermely specific tool. And yet, the number is used to judge, catalog, and operate on hundreds of millions of bodies. Why? Because it’s useful; it enables the medical establishment (and insurance companies) to more easily package, sell, and re-sell our bodies back to us and, more likely than not, you have encountered it yourself. In this way and many more, you have experienced the myriad ways in which power operates, changes, and limits the body.
On their new album, There Existed an Addiction to Blood, Clipping. channel the body like on no album before it. The hints that lived in tracks like “Body & Blood” from CLPPNG and elsewhere have been ramped up to eleven and placed at the forefront of this release. The album features screams of pain, dismemberment, a prodigious amount of blood, and other bodily examinations, packaged under the genre of horror. Like its preceding album, Splendor & Misery, There Existed an Addiction to Blood is steeped in literary references, substituting horror for science-fiction, offering a radical marriage of the style, its stories, and its norms with politics, music, and resistance.
In many ways, this is a natural progression for a band so interested in the body; the genre of horror revolves around and is centered on it. While the sub-genre of “body horror” certainly exists, it only denotes an exaggeration of the importance of the body already inherent in horror as a whole. Allow me to explain: first, fear is an inherently physical reaction. We feel it in our bones and horror movies and books have always made a point of focusing on that. This is accomplished by the gesture of shivering, the misting breath, tears or, of course, the famous close-up zooms on screaming faces. The point is to make us feel the fear the protagonist goes through and the best way to do that is through bodily gesture.
This type of relationship between fear and a physical reaction is also all over There Existed an Addiction to Blood; on “Run for Your Life” for example, we find the couplet “shiver all up in the bones / the body feeling crazy” as the protagonist takes shelter in a dumpster or on “He Dead” when Daveed Diggs says “They say these bullets hollow / holler if you feel the same […] / then this breeze make you shiver / holler if you feel the pain”. This kind of lyrics, like the focus on physical reactions in horror literature and film, is designed to create empathy in the listener and make the work more than just an abstract exploration of fear or danger. The idea is to make us more aware of the fear we feel on a daily basis and the ways in which it is a physical manifestation of our body inside a space we like to conceptualize as abstract (i.e, emotions and mental states). Horror says that that distinction, between the body and the mind, is a lot more flimsy than we’d like to believe and Clipping. transmit the same message through their music.
Secondly (and lastly, for now, because this is a review and there are many more layers to unpack here), horror is also about transformation and the inherent, Faustian allure of supra-human bodily power. This power promises to change the human, to help you transcend your condition, tempting you with the promise of power manifested in a new body (werewolves, vampires, zombies, ghosts, to name just a few). This power always backlashes, creating monsters that speak to the darkness at the base of humanity and how it is unchained when we set the body free. The formula is: your human body is inherently dangerous. If you empower it, unleash it, there will be a price to pay.
However, this idea is, of course, political; this anxiety, of the body being corrupt and, if only we let it, exploding into murderous rage at the slightest change is an inherently puritan one. It has been used for centuries to preach the inherent allure and danger of the body and paint it in a negative, moralistic light. However, in a long process of reclamation (think about Jordan Peele’s Us, Candyman, or Octavia Butler’s work for example) the body and its potential transformation has been re-imagined as a site for the possible empowerment of the oppressed. Imagine if the worker, the minority, the down-trodden, could make the bodies so often used for oppression (with the lash, with separation, with starvation) into a powerful weapon against the oppressor. Then, the unleashing wrought by the body can be revolutionary, powerful freedoms explored and manifested in the face of the normative bodily forms which the currently powerful wish to enforce on the disenfranchised.
On tracks like “Blood of the Fang” and again on “He Dead” (probably the quintessential track of the album), this allure and potential power of the metamorphosis is explored by Clipping. On the former track, allusions are made to Malcolm X (“Brother Malcom done told y’all: by any means”), Angela Davis (“Queen Angela done told y’all, grasp at the root”), and Stokely Carmichael (“Prince Stokely done told y’all, have no fear”) among other prominent figures of the Civil Rights movements. Confused by the royal titles? Well, “Blood of the Fang” is clearly about vampires (“Now what that tell you bout death? Death ain’t shit”) and thus adopts their obsession with nobility, and it’s also about violent political resistance. Imagine yourself as a vampire, as a fearless, powerful hunter bent on survival above all else. Who’s blood do you feed on? Random bystanders? No. At the core of resistance, to police, to unjust laws, to the corporate control of space, to capitalism, at the core of modern survival of the oppressed, lies the body. If the body is imagined as a source of power, as a source of uprising, then horror becomes political. If you could stand against bullets, if you could leap buildings, if you could leech the power of your enemies, if you were turned into the Terror of the Night, would you stalk alleys and collect art or take to the streets and bring the whole fucked up structure of society down?
Naturally, and as on every Clipping. release, words and lyrics are only one layer through which meaning is communicated and There Existed an Addiction to Blood is no different. Through noise, static, synths, beats, and samples the semantic message of the album is completed, once again speaking to us on a bodily level through hearing. On this album, many of the sounds employed communicate the physicality of the subject matter; more than the previous release (perhaps also channeling the move away from “space” and “time” as concepts) the beats are even larger, more fuzzy and overwhelming (check out the punishing beats on “Attunement” for example).
Where utilized, synths naturally have the Hammond-y vibes of old-school horror films, magnified to the maximum in order to maintain the sheer size of Clipping.’s characteristic sound. The idea here is, again, for you to feel the music rather than just think on it. Like the lyrics attempt to create empathy between you and the subject-matter through physical fear, the instrumentation is designed to channel the same kind of pain-thrill through reverberation, distortion, and screech.
Remember: music, for Clipping., on this release and elsewhere, is physical. Anyone who has seen them live can attest to that. At the end of the album, we find a truly powerful testament and reminder of this fact; the last track, “Piano Burning”, is literally a recording of a piano burning for eighteen minutes laid over the sounds of a night out in nature, with the various insectoid and weather sounds this implies. Created by avant-garde composer Annea Lockwood, this powerful closing piece screams one thing: all of this was for naught. If you think music itself isn’t physical, you’re kidding yourself. Music is made by instruments and instruments burn. Wherefore horror? Where is emotion contained within these artifacts of wood, ivory, string, and metal? Nowhere. True horror, true terror, true pain, is out there, in the night. It’s out there in the sounds of the world.
At the end of There Existed an Addiction to Blood the body, in the form of the piano (an instrument where instruments are understood to be the body of music) is burned up, set free, sacrificed, released, used to pay respects to the true source of horror: the real. Through negation at the very end, through the annulation of the body, is the main theme of the album repeated to us, the importance of the very thing annulled. In that sense, and in all the senses described above, There Existed an Addiction to Blood is a deep, thoughtful, political, and powerful homage to the genre of horror and the bodily, visceral, and primal power it holds. And that power, like the album’s power, runs very, very deep.