Clam, Sonnendruck | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Clam, Sonnendruck

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Clam, Sonnendruck
  • Clam, Sonnendruck

(Self-released, CD, digital download)

Sometimes two things that seem like they shouldn't go together actually go together exceptionally well. For instance, the two prominent concepts you'll find on Clam's album Sonnendruck, upbeat electro and a cappella choral singing, seem like they couldn't be more of a mismatch. But the antiquity of Gregorian-style chanting juxtaposed with the hyper-futurism of entirely artificial electronic sounds makes for a curiously challenging and familiar coupling.

Clam is the recording project of Alex Vitzthum, a native Vermonter who studied opera singing at Bard College. It was there that he developed an appreciation for all things choral. Vitzthum is currently working on his own requiem, and Sonnendruck hints at this forthcoming piece. Vitzthum also plays in an über-serious band called the Mouthful that's definitely not silly or goofy and definitely isn't kind of a joke. Their song about craft beer, "Rapture on Tap," isn't facetious at all. (Note: I'm being facetious.)

Fun fact: The word sonnendruck comes from German and loosely translates to "sun push" or "sun pressure." It's a fitting title for the album, which overall feels bright and a little bit tense. The album is entirely instrumental, except for Vitzthum's near-wordless chanting on two of the album's eight tracks.

The opening cut, "Waxing," is a melodic, mid-tempo electronic zinger. Quantized synths of various sonic flavors orbit around a steady bass line. It's contemplative but not overly so.

"Funky Mango" sounds like it could have been lifted from a Sega Genesis game — namely, Sonic the Hedgehog. Vitzthum cites video game music as a heavy influence. About halfway through the sparkly, warbly tune, the tempo drops to a perilous low, only to come surging back like an avatar that's just obtained a special power-up.

"Slow Chant For Lil Greg (Part 1)" and "Slow Chant For Lil Greg (Part 2)" are both slow-burning, ominous choral pieces. In "Part 1," multiple tracks of Vitzthum's voice overlap and swell in discordant polyphony. His voice(s) range from bass to alto. At times he's invasive, and other times he's removed. "Part 2" is much more serene and ethereal, and sounds as if it's coming from the far end of a dark, subterranean chamber. It evokes the sense of eavesdropping on an ancient ritual.

"Dusk," which was written after spending a weekend in nature, falls squarely between Vitzthum's modalities. To be clear, it's as artificial as his more upbeat tracks but creeps along sluggishly through an ambient wasteland.

The album does leave the listener wanting a union of Vitzthum's glitzy electronica and choral influences. For a first outing, perhaps it makes more sense for these entities to remain separate. In the future, one can only hope that the two concepts will become one.

Sonnendruck is available at clamclamclam.bandcamp.com.

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