Brisbane, Australia’s, CLN takes the familiar sounds of mid-2010’s vocal-driven, melodic electronic music and twists them into the contemporary with his laid back, emotional style. His debut album Dawn Chorus comes after a number of successful singles and remixes garnering millions of plays on SoundCloud and Spotify, but with Dawn Chorus he refines his sound and produces a record that stands on its own.
The 2010’s trend of melodic electronic embodied by the likes of The Chainsmokers, and Louis the Child has quickly become dated. The hallmark swelling of synth power chords into the inevitable drop with a modulated world drum sample, and that percussive pan flute lead (see GarageBand programmed synth “festival lead”) lost its allure, quickly. Played nearly exclusively at ASU frat houses, that shit is over to essentially everyone involved with, and or obsessed with music. I like listening to Halsey sing about the trials and tribulations of being rich, white and 20 as much as the next college freshman, but after folks like Joji and Billie Eilish’s domination of the popular music post-Frank Ocean; the college town name drops haven’t been doing it. CLN’s Dawn Chorus scratches that nostalgic itch with the laziness and malaise of the current day.
Despite CLN’s affinity for 2010’s production, he creates a record that feels more “33 “God”’ than “Closer”. Through excellent songwriting and arrangement, CLN takes the sounds we are already familiar with and gives them back with new meaning. The standout lead-off track “Breaksmyheart” is a march through thick ambient synth lines, guided by a slow drum beat and spacey floating vocals. The listener is bogged down by the heavy ambiance while CLN’s vocals easily glide along, frictionless. The track was written on a whim a week before the file submission deadline, just-for-fun, and while “Breaksmyheart” isn’t necessarily the most fun track, the fluidity and spontaneity with which it was written are reflected in its composition. The track listens as an intro of sorts, painstakingly simple, progressing in intensity along a linear path. The simplicity drives home the ultimate simplicity of the idea and feeling the song embodies. A broken heart doesn’t have to be so complicated; it just is and will be until it’s not.
The rest of the record follows suit with minimalist emotional intensity, “Waiting for You” being another standout track that exudes CLN’s influences XXYYXX and Frank Ocean without feeling derivative. It’s easy to see why knowing CLN’s history. Growing up in South Africa and moving to Australia at 13, CLN was well exposed at a young age. This really shines through on the album’s title track, which could be at home on an Aphex Twin record. “Dawn Chorus”, the song, does a wonderful job tying the album together as a project that effortlessly showcases the influence and experience of the artist.
Beginning to end the record is listenable, catchy and powerful, but when using the cliche as a device in art there is a tendency to drift too far. This happens in Dawn Chorus on the track “Second Sun”. The vocal feature and production is predictable through the drop and feels a little too Halsey for the rest of the record. The track comes as an energetic climax to the record which simultaneously helps as it hurts. It is a logical peak in energy, but without CLN’s drawn-out vocals that define the rest of the record it doesn’t pack the same power. It serves to highlight CLN’s strength as a vocalist and in crafting melodies. The vocals seem intertwined with the production, like one solid piece instead of two pieces glued together with compression. Repurposing cliche to facilitate originality is dangerous and despite the shortcoming on Second Sun the strength of the rest of the record covers. “Change My Mind” and “Dawn Chorus”are too good to be brought down. The feeling and energy are consistent through the album and it finishes with strength and purpose.
CLN’s Dawn Chorus is worth a listen regardless of musical preference. The artistic intent and execution set this chopped and screwed Chainsmokers apart from his dated melodic electronic counterparts. Be sure to check out his remix of Frank Ocean’s “Chanel “as well, it’s excellent.