Review Summary: "We've met before, haven't we?"Clarity Before the Crash
is a tale of many nights, a year, if we are going into the specifics of the recording process that has put to test Waldskin's will to see it through. Looking back, it really has been a tempestuous time for the world, but the Swiss trio has somehow managed to transform the surrounding violent energy into a soothing stream of trip hop for solitary roads and nocturnal electronica that evokes the abrasive melancholy of legendary acts like Portishead, Massive Attack or Nine Inch Nails. Influences that singer Maryam Hammad knows how to channel blissfully through the silky tones of her voice.
Waldskin's unorthodox line-up of instrumentals, which include electronic drums and pads, several banks of synths, a sumptuous cello, and a wide array of inscrutable noises and subtle guitar overdrives and levered notes, allows them to create subversive passages of early 2000s trip hop. Dark and moody excerpts of hazy pop that call for the quiet unrest of the midnight hour in tracks like "Odonata", which oozes with the Middle-Eastern flavor of a dune rider down a desert night sky, or single "The Shore", which diligently pulls from Lynch’s Lost Highway with anxious beats and burdened vocals.
The band's first full length draws from the noir style of the black and white comic strips of Frank Miller's Sin City as much as it uses a cinematographic film grain as textures for their music. There's a scent of Submotion Orchestra in tracks like "Empty Vessel", echoes of the crepuscular stimulus of Two People's brand of nightly tunes in songs like "Sharing Atoms", or even more atmospheric cuts like "Pitch Black", which contribute to the rich palette of sounds that Waldskin are able to conjure in this, their absorbing debut.
Released through German independent label Motor Music, Waldskin enters the game with a heavily paced and emotionally oppressive album. There may be times that the emotions that run through Clarity Before the Crash
feel devoid of true intention, as Maryam’s singing style is occasionally defiant and even apathetic, as exemplified in a song like “Reel”, but as all good trip hop ever did, it's an album that takes its time to sink its claws into the back of your memory. Once it does though, trust that it will set you in motion, leaving it to pure mental inertia to take over, tone deaf and blindfolded, to wherever it belongs.