As ever, Clams takes mysterious and sometimes distasteful source material and crafts ethereal beats where samples are hammered flat into grainy layers of sound. On this new batch they're punctured by staggered drums that vary from subdued to ear-splitting—his kick drums tend to shatter on impact, like they're hitting the glass wall of his lo-fi aesthetic. "Kissing On My Syrup" takes an old school-style drum break, throwing dirty bass synths under it, while "Unchain Me" (from Lil B's I'm Gay) one-ups "Palace" for the drama factor. Flipping "Cry Little Sister" from the Lost Boys soundtrack into a triumphant war song, it's easy to see why the Based God would choose it for his pseudo-messianic, positivist ramblings.
"Unchain Me," like most of the first Instrumental tape, has enough going on to feel complete on its own, but the large selection of A$AP Rocky tracks on display here reveals the pop-savvy backseat driver side of Clams. These tracks feel tailor made for Rocky and co to navigate, with more space and tension than something like "Motivation." On "Wassup," it sounds as though the breathy sample is just barely mouthing the title, but it's hard to say if that's just imagination or not—he's all about illusion. I'd put forth that "Bass" is possibly Clams' pinnacle, or at least a sleeper hit, for that exact reason. Driven by whispered vocals that sound like buzzing wasps, it halts into powerful start-stop progression, like he's mustering as much strength as he can out of his usually featherweight beats.
Just looking at the tracklist of Instrumental Mixtape 2 reads like a best-of-the-best rap beats of the past year, the foundation for some of the genre's most ubiquitous songs. The whole "cloud-rap" quasi-movement is constantly in danger of self-parody (harsh lyrics over soothing drones is a precarious formula), but Clams Casino is more than just aesthetic. His music has an enormous amount of personality, instantly recognizable yet rarely less than surprising, and the fact that it's stood up—if not developed an entirely new life—across two separate album's worth of material shows an artist whose best role isn't necessarily behind the scenes.