Chris McClenney creates a new standard with “Portrait In Two” EP
Just when you thought you had a read enough on CHRIS MCCLENNEY, he lets us even closer to his deepest, darkest thoughts on one of the best thematic releases since To Pimp a Butterfly by KENDRICK LAMAR. He has created a new standard with his latest EP, Portrait In Two.
The way Chris McClenney released the tracks off this EP had us thinking he had no more surprises left, but the introspect hits twice as hard right from the beginning piece ‘Consciousness (intro)’. It’s a conversational piece, but the conversation is taking part inside McClenney’s mind and the participants seem to be his self-doubt and his self-confidence. He paints the most vivid picture of all the pressures that come with being an artist in today’s day and age.
Regardless of how many times you’ve listened to the previously released tracks McClenney has put on this EP, the way he breaks them apart with spoken word interludes, enriched with his inner monologue makes them seem like completely new songs. They hold a completely different weight under McClenney‘s direction.
Of the fresh selections we get on this EP it doesn’t get any more grooving then ‘Glide’. McClenney couldn’t have structured this release any more perfect. Exactly like Lamar on TPAB, he breaks apart all the seriousness with the most funk-filled, free-form masterpieces, filled with an inspired mix of synths and live instrumentation.
The catalyst of this free-form structure is McClenney’s use of bass in ‘Glide’. He’s been keeping all the greatest bass parts in hiding, waiting for this release. Although free-formed McClenney keeps each tangent succinct, never straying too far from the underlying message of the track, he also never misses an opportunity to inject a new rhythm into his songs.
Even with his piano virtuosity aside, McClenney has blown any standard we have for thematic EP’s out of the water. The 23-year-old’s spoken word pieces are honestly the first I’ve heard of their kind. Not since Lamar have we heard such a vivid detail of one’s inner monologue. The honesty in his voice, the clarity of his speech all wrapped up in the most hard-hitting realisations, McClenney has produced a greater reflection of the changing times within the social constructs of 2016/17 than any we’ve seen. The vision of this EP never stumbles, each spoken word bringing you closer and closer to the final “portrait” of McClenney.
This inspired mix of introspect and feel-good funk carries you through the EP’s entirety, all the way to the closing piece ‘Awake (outro)’ – a stunning ode to McClenney’s classical training. A beautiful composition, it’s the perfect piece to bring you back to life after he takes you away from yours and into his for the length of his discussion.
However, ultimately questions are raised just as they are also being answered. The use of the iPhone lock tone that is played at the end of the intro and outro has us thinking – is McClenney eluding to the fact that what seems so real and so relatable, is the art of relationships and devotion slowly coming to exist only on our devices? For the answers we will have to wait, but for good music filled with overpowering substance and riveting content, wait you won’t.
Whether you’re a fan or not, I urge you to listen to this stunning social commentary by a Purple Sneakers favourite and the god-son of groove, Chris McClenney, and his EP, Portrait In Two. Out now on Soulection.
Words by STEVE COPP