Whither the new Clinic album? It’s been four years since the Liverpool-based psych gurus released the marvellous, sinister, Oneohtrix Point Never-assisted ‘Free Reign’. In the intervening years, the scene that they helped shape has blown up, but – remix album ‘Free Reign II’ aside – a proper follow up remains forthcoming.
Enter Higher Authorities – a team-up between Ade and Hartley Clinic and dub producer Adrian Sherwood. Released on the 20th of the fourth month (and, if you buy direct from the label, it comes packed with branded HA rolling papers), there’s some not-so-subtle head nodding going on here. It’s appropriate – ‘Neptune’ is swamped in the fug of weed smoke. Thankfully, concision, craft and Ade Blackburn’s insistent vocals veer this away from indulgent stoner babble.
‘Colours’ is thick with Sherwood’s sonic manipulations, Blackburn’s vocals refracted into oblivion against a backdrop of synth and organ. It’s a feel good song, according to the band, but it's far too menacing for that. Elsewhere ‘Twilight (In Luminous Lodge)’ is positively Lynchian, with its gentle swing and shimmering production, while ‘Monocle Man’ has a disorientating nursery rhyme vibe.
It’s not a relentlessly dark record, however. ‘Another Time, Another Place’ is a storming, funk-inflected groover, while ‘Neptune’ bows the album out with a positively cheery harmonica and synth combo. It’s a moment of genuine warmth on a tense but rewarding debut – one that fits in nicely with the Clinic canon, while also giving Sherwood a starring role.
Words: Will Salmon
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