Album Reviews

The Clientele – I Am Not There Anymore

(Merge) UK release date: 28 July 2023

London-based guitar trio pursue a more varied sonic palette on their most ambitious, artistically progressive offering to date

The Clientele - I Am Not There Anymore Over the last 20 years, a sense of mystique and intrigue has surrounded the music of London-based guitar trio The Clientele. Their sound might have had familiar components that hinted at ’60s guitar stylings or melodic indie-pop, but there has also always been something undefinable that made their music special and elevated it to a higher realm.

They’ve released several albums, compilations and EPs over the years that have all adhered to and evolved their particular sound, but latest album I Am Not There Anymore feels the furthest they have pushed themselves. Comprised of vocalist/lyricist/guitarist Alasdair MacLean, bassist James Hornsey and drummer Mark Keen, the band have approached a sort of cult status in recent years, and these latest songs will only help consolidate this position.

Some of the 19 songs on the album rank among their strongest to date, but it’s the more varied sonic palette that helps it stand out from its predecessors. The broader scope is apparent straight away on the eight-minute opener Fables Of The Silverlink, which showcases the album’s greater use of pronounced percussion. Yet, the hazy, autumnal feeling that has been part of their sound since their early days is also very much present, the listener fully submerged in a transporting, nostalgic reverie.

It’s followed by the first of several short segues (or ‘radials’ as they’re termed) that varyingly take in field recordings, jazzy piano miniatures and post-classical interludes or even all three simultaneously (as on the pleasingly esoteric Conjuring Summer In). Maclean explained that these sonic developments were largely a result of them embracing technology and buying a computer to assist in their music-making. He also labelled the album “a leap forwards and to the side”, which seems a neat, pinpointing summary.

Having said that, the album still possesses a number of songs that feel as absorbing as they are effortless. Garden Eye Mantra sees them revert back to their characteristic wistful melancholia but also has a grainy, earthy quality. Lady Grey, meanwhile is classic Clientele, balancing perfectly formed melodies and songcraft with something alluring and unknowable. Dying In May inhabits a similar space, another percussion-driven moment, that comes with psychedelic flashes. Blue Over Blue blends their languid and elusive sound with programmed beats to striking effect and the surreptitious Claire’s Not Real arrives with emotional impact and finessed melodies. 

The high standards are maintained until the end. Chalk Flowers is gentle and softer, an example of their ability to project timelessness and Stems Of Anise has a gossamer lightness and a mellowed, end of summer vibe. I Dreamed Of You, Maria meanwhile radiates warmth and registers as a perfect example of their quintessential English, pastoral sound. As the album draws to a close, it’s hard not to see I Am Not There Anymore as their most ambitious, artistically progressive offering to date.

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More on The Clientele
The Clientele @ Green Door Store, Brighton
The Clientele – I Am Not There Anymore
The Clientele – Music For The Age Of Miracles
The Clientele @ Islington Assembly Hall, London
The Clientele – Alone And Unreal: The Best Of The Clientele