The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an exhibition up right now that explores digitally manipulated photography. One image on display, Robert Polidori’s Dashashwemedh Road, Varanasi, India, is utterly jarring to behold for the first time. The work, which depicts a busy street in the titular Indian city, was created by seamlessly stitching together multiple photographic exposures. The resulting image is deeply disorienting and perceptually disturbing — every minute detail is rendered in absolute clarity, transcending the limits of actual human perception. Just as Dashashwemedh Road assaults the eye with its endless detail and disarming clarity, DJ Clap’s Best Night Ever bombards the listener’s ear with a dizzying array of musical ideas at nearly every possible moment; amphetamine-infused, hypersaturated sounds erupt out of the speaker and viciously compete for one’s attention in a way very similar to the interaction between the visual elements in Polidori’s photo.
Admittedly, attempting to compare visual art to music is an inherently problematic pursuit, especially when considering one of the most fundamental differences between these two media: time. The static visual document exists unchanged as time progresses, allowing the viewer’s eye to flit back and forth across the work’s surface, absorbing and mentally cataloging all of its specific details in an attempt to make sense of the piece as a whole; by contrast, music is inextricably linked to the temporality of the human experience. A listener does not have the luxury of confronting an entire work of music in one moment, of stepping back and examining all of the musical components side-by-side in the way that one views a photograph such as Polidori’s. But oh, how I wish that I could just step back and experience Best Night Ever in such a way.
On nearly every song, DJ Clap cycles through set after set of delirious vocal samples, stuttering synthesizers, and ecstatic drum patterns, barely settling on one idea before speeding on to the next. Indeed, when I listen to this album, I find myself getting lost in each moment, in each instantaneous, fleeting sonic revelation that emerges and then invariably disappears mere seconds later, replaced by a fresh idea. With virtually no downtime, it’s easy to mentally give up while listening to Best Night Ever, to let oneself be overtaken by the shimmering, swirling sonic vortex. In this sense, the orchestrational maximalism of the music seems to paradoxically induce a sort of Glass-ian state of trance — though perhaps DJ Clap’s compositions merely cause the brain to shut down rather than achieve the sublime transcendence that minimalism can sometimes inspire.
Although the non-stop aural assault of Clap’s aesthetic is certainly — and, it seems fair to say, intentionally — a bit one-sided, the album is not without its share of highlights. “Friends” and “Unbelievable,” two particularly colossal peaks on the album, perfectly encapsulate the electronic ecstasy that makes the finest moments on Best Night Ever so viscerally thrilling. Frenzied repetition of synthesizer and vocal motifs combines with unbridled explosions of drum patterns to create a hallucinatory, hysterical sense of euphoria. “Come On,” another hard-hitting high point, sounds a bit like an amped-up, mollied-out version of The Field, employing a series of vocal samples that outline a stunningly, arrestingly beautiful harmonic progression.
But not everything is quite as successful. A few moments in “Color” and “Something Very Wondrous” feature audio effects that seem arbitrary at best and simply unpleasant at worst, as Clap questionably applies cutoff filters and reverb in what feels like an attempt to throw in some sort of variation on the pervading aesthetic. Instead, the most successful change-up of the producer’s paradigm comes in the form of the refined, understated “Secret.” Here, Clap is actually tasteful in his employment of the filter, allowing vocal samples to sneak in from nothingness at the song’s beginning and then gracefully fade back into silence at its conclusion. I question, however, its inclusion in relation to the work as a whole; as quite literally the only pause in the album’s ceaseless maximalism, it simply does not seem to contribute to the aesthetic that the producer is otherwise so vehemently devoted to.
Largely, however, Clap succeeds in his project of crafting an unrelentingly euphoric experience. Stylistically, Best Night Ever is not something that everyone will be able to buy into — if the music clicks, it really clicks, but if it doesn’t, it really doesn’t. In the end, though, listening to this album really is quite analogous to viewing that aforementioned photograph. Much like Polidori’s image, Best Night Ever is not a work of art that is particularly easy or comfortable to experience. However, the most compelling moments on this album force the listener to question his or her auditory sensory experience in ways that are exhilarating and mind-expanding.