Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

George Clanton revives 90s surrealism on Ooh Rap I Ya

"Ooh Rap I Ya"

Release date: 28 July 2023
George Clanton Ooh Rap I Ya cover
04 August 2023, 09:00 Written by Noah Barker

You learn more about yourself when bracing for impact than when it hits.

Being on the teetering edge of some new excitement or decimation, where you find yourself either gleefully accepting the great change or turning one’s ears up in a fury, is a watershed moment for an artist to harness. “I Been Young,” the lead single to Vaporwave godfather George Clanton’s most recent record, wrings its tension to a fever pitch until the first chorus arrives at a minute and a half in, and when it does, it is a moment of unabashed discovery.

Clanton has done well to position himself here on the frontlines of 90s revivalism: vaporwave instrumentals of increasing complexity, hooks wider than a Texan highway, a nostalgia liminal and unplaceable. His music has always been a wandering soul in search of its rightful home, but here it arrives as if it was aiming for this moment all along. The instrumentals of Ooh Rap I Ya are a feat of surrealism in songcraft, ebbing waves of synths and overblown drums soundtrack much of the run time, but in increasingly more abstract ways.

It isn’t long until the mastery of the pop form displayed in the first half of the record devolves into the spare parts of a song: 90s hits deconstructed and remade in the most obtuse yet enjoyable ways. Bittersweet melodies echo out with no discernible form unless they are expressly sought out in lyric sheets; when listening, this highlights the attention to melody in which Clanton is supernaturally gifted. It’s as if Grouper had taken her knack for harmony and collaborated with Max Martin for the loneliest hits 1998 had ever seen.

There is much to brace for on Ooh Rap I Ya, the opening of “Everything I Want,” and nearly every chorus on the project for that matter, understands that uniquely 90s obsession with starting on spare drum hits before thrusting the listener headfirst into the auditory blender: the “Only Shallow” school of starting an album. The heatwave haze of “Justify Your Life” and blistering fuzz of “F.U.M.L” have an equally attuned grasp tension and payoff, making an earworm out of decaying soundscapes.

“I Been Young” is the type of watershed song in an artist’s career that parts the fog surrounding their career trajectory and reveals the point of every stumble and misstep it took to get there. For Clanton, the point may have always been a moment of uncertainty, a hopeful brace for some unknown impact beyond the murky instrumental, and then a guiding voice bellowing out their own road to maturity. It’s more overwhelming than can be reckoned with, and then we wait for it again. For a moment, it’s more than perfect: it’s my reward for the embrace. And then I get to hear the rest.

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