Who is Conrad Clipper? We may never find out. The name is a pseudonym of an anonymous composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Berlin who makes ambient music “with a focus on prepared, programmed and played piano.” That’s about all we know.
Clipper first appeared on the scene in 2016 with intriguing debut Cycle Of Liminal Rites, released on a limited cassette run through Emily Elhaj’s Love Lion label (Angel Olsen). This, his follow-up, was written and recorded over the course of five days in a utopian Arizona town called Arcosanti (also the name of the opening track), an experimental community designed by renowned architect Paolo Soleri. “Picture, if you can, moon base architecture inspired by late ’60s sustainable ideologies,” he writes.
The mysterious Clipper found himself in Arcosanti for the FORM festival – not as a performer but as a photographic assistant for a friend. Whenever he could, he’d rush off between bands to his room overlooking the desert to write and record the pieces that now make up Heron’s Book Of Dreams.
Clocking in at just 28 minutes, Clipper’s sophomore LP is a short and sweet listen that evokes the dreamy, deep blue skies and rugged desert scenery of his temporary Arizona home. Clipper is clearly an incredibly adept pianist and for the most part, favours stripped-back compositions that allow his skilled manipulation of the instrument to shine through.
With each meditative track blending seamlessly into the next, those feeling ungenerous might liken the album to the sort of soothing soundscapes found on mindfulness apps like Calm and Headspace. But there are moments of ‘sit-up-and-listen’ excitement, too: the disconcerting, quasi-religious percussion of No Peaches For The Foolish, and the drone-soaked, largely piano-free closer Forces Out Of Your Control.
Conrad Clipper is an enigma, and a talented one at that. While the tracks on Heron’s Book Of Dreams don’t quite live up to the buzz surrounding the artist himself, the record’s eerie beauty is certainly worth half an hour of your time.