Review: Clams Casino Proves Why He’s So Influential on “32 Levels”

Based in Nutley, New Jersey, Michael Volpe, a.k.a. Clams Casino, has been active in the producing game since 2006.

Known for his heavily influential cloud rap production, he broke through once he collaborated with Lil B on several songs back in 2010. Since then he has worked with a variety of artists from A$AP Rocky to The Weeknd to FKA Twigs. Throughout this time he’s released three editions of his Instrumentals mixtapes and an EP, with 32 Levels being his debut album.

One of the singles leading up to the drop, “All Nite”, features one of Clams’ previous collaborators: Vince Staples. The track features his classic atmospheric feeling with an added urgency similar to what he brought to one of their previous collaborations, “Norf Norf“. Said beat perfectly complements the Long Beach Rapper’s violent commentary on his days as a Crip (the song has also been complemented by a fantastically fitting music video).

The song preceding “All Nite” on the tracklist, “Be Somebody”, features two more of Clams’ frequent collaborators, A$AP Rocky and Lil B. With another stellar cloud rap beat, the two emcees bring their trademark styles which fit snuggly into Clams’ slumbering bass. Showing why both of them have worked with Clams so much in the past.

Michael isn’t all about rap though. While the first half of 32 Levels is all hip hop, Clams shows his talent for producing some pretty catchy R&B without giving up his signature sound on the second half. For example, on “Back to You” which features alternative pop band Wet’s lead singer, Kelly Zutrau, we see Clams make something more upbeat in comparison to his usual pace. Kelly’s soft vocals are complemented by a thumping bass and a series of echoing strings which all together make for something I’m surprised wasn’t used as a single. However it’s not all smooth sailings for Clams’ vocal features.

The only real downfall on this record is found near its end with the song “Ghost in a Kiss“. Even though Clams’ work here is good, with a leading piano that gets progressed by some complementing trap drums for an overall cinematic feel to the instrumental. It’s Samuel T. Herring’s vocal contribution which slows the track down, his overly monotone delivery simply doesn’t fit well with the rest of the record’s guest vocals.

Here, Clams Casino has created an accurate introduction to his production style. Full of looming synths and an overall dark atmosphere, he shows why so many notable artists have worked with him in search for that kind of sound. This is a must-listen for production aficionados.

Grade: B

Similar Sounds: Vince Staples, FKA Twigs, A$AP Rocky

Highlights: “All Nite”, “Be Somebody”, “Back to You”

Lowlight: “Ghost in a Kiss”

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Jose Alberto Orive

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