Album Review Clams Casino - 32 Levels

Clams Casino - 32 Levels

Emerging from the shadows, ingenious producer Michael Vope puts his own agenda forward on an impressive debut.


As is often the way with producers in the age of the instant, Michael Vope aka Clams Casino has already created serious waves well before the release of his debut album. Simply from a compilation of instrumental pieces sent around MySpace (remember that?!), the New Jersey-native soon found himself collaborating with the likes of A$AP Rocky and featuring on records from FKA twigs and The Weeknd. It isn’t a surprise, then, that his first full-length is littered with the names of hip-hop’s hottest, all the while backed by some of the most innovative beats a rapper could wish for.

What Clams Casino specialises in and what makes this record a success is his ability to seemingly carve beats from ice, so cold is the production. His signature sounds otherworldly, with the breathy synths and crisp bass a soundtrack to some interstellar gang warfare. The icy echoes of the record serve to sharpen the aggressive edge of the rhymes, making Lil B on ‘Witness’ sound positively vitriolic.

But this is not just a well-crafted hip-hop record. In fact, Clams’ most innovative creations are on display in the absence of rappers, such as on ‘Back To You’, on which Wet member Kelly Zutrau’s silk soft vocals provide a opposing aesthetic to the beats that back them. Testament to Vope’s diverse ability is the presence of Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring on ‘Ghost in a Kiss’. His cavernous drawl is simultaneously chilling and touching, the perfect counterpart to the producer’s arctic background creations. It’s this far-reaching ability to mix artists and genres in unpredictable combinations that cements Clams Casino as an ingenious producer.

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