CLAVVS’ “World Underwater” is a world worth exploring

The Atlanta-based duo stands out as accentuators of the best of synthpop in their sophomore LP.

Kyle Kohner, Writer

CLAVVS is composed of rangey vocalist Amber Renee and critically-acclaimed producer Graham Marsh, who became known for his Grammy award-winning work with Kid Cudi and Gnarls Barkley. The duo of CLAVVS has dropped possibly one of the most underrated albums of 2017 so far and may become overlooked as the year progresses. The synth-pop, trip-hop duo from Atlanta, Georgia dropped the atmospheric “World Underwater” on March 24, a phenomenal follow-up to their solid debut album “Halfblood,” which was released just one year ago.

Criminally unnoticed

CLAVVS’ expressive debut “Halfblood” flaunted the best elements of atmospheric synthpop thanks to the production mastery of Marsh, but the adept vocal talent of Renee set this duo apart from most synth pop acts with their lush debut. Blatantly speaking, “Halfblood” went criminally unnoticed by everyone, myself included. Nevertheless, a sophomore slump reared its ugly head like most fledgling talented artists, not because of a lack of faith in CLAVVS’ musical talent but because of the level of quality “Halfblood” oozed from its ethereal depths. With “World Underwater” CLAVVS continues to prove themselves as one of the scene’s sharpest and most exciting talents.

Just from the first few tracks on this album, CLAVVS clarifies that it operates from lesser nuanced pop song structure — a stark improvement from their debut album. Unlike many artists of the same genre, Marsh wields undulating rhythms and throbbing basslines that propel CLAVVS’ sonic ferocity into gauzy stratospheres rather than anchoring it down into sublime depths. Amber Reneé’s hypnotic and sweltering vocals coexist harmoniously with Marsh’s ornate soundscapes, resulting in a vibrantly consistent aura. Its celestial nature encapsulates the atmosphere of both a late night joyride and a drug-induced trip.

Much-needed life

This captivating release perfectly packages synth-driven music. Despite how angelic Renee’s vocals may seem, Marsh’s production is the beginning and end of their success, as he provides a beatific stage for Renee’s storytelling that completely washes over the listener. While he envelopes listeners with his canvases of cosmic touch, he keeps their bodies moving with pendulating drum patterns and oddly generic, trap-influenced hi-hats.

While an ample amount of synth pop acts are blurring the sonic lines between each other and finding themselves slowly falling into an electronic-based doldrums, groups like CLAVVS are reviving the genre by injecting much-needed life while still sticking to a similar formula of sound. Some listeners may find it hard not to liken CLAVVS to Phantogram, but truth be told, “World Underwater” is the album the slightly grungier Phantogram should have released in place of their 2016 “Three.”

CLAVVS’ sophomore LP “World Underwater” has finally validated the group’s standing within the synth-pop scene. With an improvement on a style exhausted by similar acts, CLAVVS will demand the attention of a larger spotlight, and rightly so.

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