Clip Art - Clip Art (4 stars)

Clip Art - Clip Art

An intriguing and completely immersive mini-album of retro-electronica from Errors' Stephen Livingstone

I have a senior relative who, eager to show me something ‘on the web’, spent a long time frustratedly footering about on a laptop to no avail, not realising he was searching in Microsoft clip art thinking it was Internet Explorer. It was too funny to put him right. Anyway, the tenuous point of this admittedly mean anecdote is: the digital realm can be a bit baffling for older generations.

For younger generations, when it comes to creativity it’s been a horizon-expanding, democratising, even liberating force in many ways. Where contemporary music hitherto took a predominantly linear course, each movement somehow reacting to or against the last, all of it now seems to coexist side by side, all at once. Take Clip Art, the self-titled debut album from the solo project of Stephen Livingstone, a member of Glasgow electronic / post-rock instrumentalists Errors.

It’s a set with an undoubted retro fascination – photos of Livingstone in his studio show him literally surrounded by vintage synths, drum machines and sequencers – and yet with an unburdened, self-recorded cut’n’paste sensibility that freely shortcuts back and forth through decades and strata of electronic music at will. ‘Dance 2 Energy’, for instance, welds a jackin’ post-disco / early-R&B programmed bassline and trippy-smooth melody to a swirling, twirling, quite beautiful coda redolent of countless 21st-century dream-pop bedroom producers. Past and present, side by side, all at once.

‘Midwives of the Expanding Light’ discomfortingly lays a long spoken-word sample from a New Yorker’s camply over-earnest speech about metaphysics and spirituality across woozy-slow minor-key guitar arpeggios and epically reverby drums. ‘No Light’ could be an early New Order 45rpm spinning at 33rpm. ‘Floral Tribute’ is an opulently melodic finish to an album that, shrouded in a disquieting narcotic haze as it all may be, clearly considers itself a pop record above all things.

It’s all too slight at just six tracks. But whether Clip Art ultimately proves a standalone oddity, or the basic framework for an ongoing and developing experiment in electronic-pop open-sourcing – and that’s strongly merited – it’s an intriguing and completely immersive little thing.

Out now on Instructional Media.

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