It’s difficult to determine what’s more positively deranged about the mysterious oddball known as Clarence Clarity: the mind-bending videos that could make even David Lynch flinch, or the twisted wall of sounds that appear to have been beamed in from another planet.
“The Gospel Truth” is an unsettling blend of grinding synths and helium-pitched vocals accompanied by a promo in which three machine gun-branding skeletal figures lip-sync against a backdrop of trippy psychedelic visuals. “Alive In The Septic Tank” is a bewildering fusion of fluttering flutes, scuzzy guitars and alt-R&B beats whose video resembles a long-lost 60s pagan horror, while the glitchy bedroom jam of “Bloodbarf” soundtracks a nightmarish clip of Justin Timberlake and N*Sync magazine covers being distorted beyond all recognition.
The sheer maximalistic nature of Clarence Clarity’s work is a direct contrast to how much we actually know about Clarence Clarity as an artist. Shrouded in mystery since he first showcased his senses-assaulting style with the warped synth-funk of “4GODSLUV” in late 2012, the enigma was initially rumored to be an alias of the equally secretive Jai Paul or Burial.
And although a recent support slot with retro-soul revivalists Jungle has proven that’s not the case, the only real concrete facts that have emerged since is that he’s from London (and not, as one of many red herrings speculated, from the slightly more exotic island of Fiji), and that his name is derived from the “Sudden Clarence Clarity” meme in which a young man stares into the distance on a crowded dancefloor.
Instead, the electro-pop Frankenstein seems content to let his freaky imagery and impossible-to-pigeonhole debut do the talking. Released through indie label Bella Union last month, the 20-track No Now might not live up to Clarity’s tongue-in-cheek “savior of music” claims, but it’s likely to be the most inventive, if exhausting, debut album of the year.