When most people think of the phrase “clams casino,” they think of the popular clam dish. In this case, clams casino is a clam on the half shell, covered in butter, garlic, peppers, bacon and breadcrumbs. It is an exceedingly popular appetizer in New England, and who can blame them? If you like clams and bacon and peppers and butter, I’m sure it’s the perfect dish, but in my mind, clams casino the appetizer is only the second most important Clams Casino.
The most important and most influential clams casino is, of course, the now-legendary cloud-rap producer. Clams Casino got his start crafting ethereal, sample-driven beats for the likes of Lil B, ASAP Rocky and Mac Miller in 2011. At the time, no other producer was making beats like Clams, and if they tried, they wouldn’t sound anywhere near as good as Clams. In 2016, he released his solo debut album 32 Levels featuring the usual suspect (Lil B, ASAP Rocky and Vince Staples) and some new collaborators like Kelela, Alt-J’s Joe Newman and Future Islands’s Samuel T. Herring. It was a spectacle. A damn good one at that, too.
With his most recent release, Moon Trip Radio, Clams Casino has decided to take a different approach. Rather than creating an album flooded with outside voices, he decided to keep things in-house and let the beats speak for themselves. Evidently, this decision was a good one because Moon Trip Radio is, no doubt, Clams Casino’s most cohesive and infectious work to date.
Lead single and album opener “Rune” is a slow-burning track, but once it gets going, it is white-hot. It’s classic Clams in the best way possible. A down-pitched vocal sample dominates the track and is backed by stuttering drums and warm bell tones. It takes almost two minutes and 40 seconds to reach the drop, but when the time finally comes, there’s nothing better.
Not only is Moon Trip Radio Clams’s most cohesive work, but it’s also the warmest and most inviting. Clams brings listeners into his world and encourages them to stay awhile and explore the landscape. Songs like “Healing” and “Twilit” have so many layers for listeners to pick apart, from field recordings to resonating piano tones. In particular, though, “Fire Blue” begs to be explored. It’s almost cavernous in a way; it’s contained far below the surfaces of the earth, but it’s also monumental in size. Clams gives the droning main sample plenty of room to breath by utilizing minimalistic drum hits and synth blasts. The only problem is, once the song begins to show its true colors, it abruptly ends, sending listeners to the next soundscape.
The flaws (if they’re even there) of Moon Trip Radio never make themselves apparent. Sometimes though, it can be hard to maintain focus on songs like “Lyre” and “In a Mirror.” They’re a little too ambient, a little too aimless, especially when surrounded by chillers like “Twilit” and “Soliloquy.” To be certain, they’re good tracks, but they should’ve been scattered throughout the album rather than back-to-back on the album’s backend.
The beats on Moon Trip Radio are definitely chill, but no one should ever attempt to study while listening to them ― there’s just too much to explore. Someone could listen to this album fifty times and continue to find new pieces or textures that they never noticed before. Moon Trip Radio presents a vast soundscape in which everyone is welcome to explore at their leisure, and that’s a good thing, because after one listen you’ll never want to leave.