An eponymous album always carries a certain weight of expectation. It is an artist’s defining opus; the perfection of their sound. Chris Clark’s own electronic namesake is as unrelentingly physical, mysterious and theatrical as any of his previous outings for Warp since he first bubbled into focus back in 2001. Clark has delivered, and with beautiful, emphatic results.
‘Clark’ is a striking album not only in its emotional and thematic scope, but also in its sheer cinematic propensity. From its very onset Berlin-based Clark evokes vivid imagery through his use of dense, intermingling textures and field recordings that have been warped beyond recognition through his own technical wizardry. There is a tangible vitality to ‘Clark’, and a very real sense of animation throughout the LP. The album breathes.
Recorded in a single four month stint over winter in a Lincolnshire barn, this is an album that deserves to be listened to as a musical whole. Each track possesses a clearly distinct personality – from the thundering techno of ‘Banjo’ to the bittersweet ambience of ‘Everlane’ – yet the album still operates in thematic harmony. Snippets of recurring melodies, samples and textures are echoed throughout the album, creating a cohesive body of music that at once sounds familiar and unfamiliar, evoking a strange, barely perceptible nostalgia. There is definitely something almost organic, or even anthropomorphic, in Clark’s entirely synthetic sound palette, and here he cements his position as an artist who consistently challenges, ignores and redefines any notion of what ‘electronic’ music can and should be.
The disorientating, hellish lurch of opener ‘Ship is Flooding’ is in fact a synthesised field recording of a chair scraping along the floor of a cavernous corridor, yet Clark makes this seemingly inert noise sound like the mournful death throes of some mechanical behemoth, as wincingly visceral and alien surges of sound emerge out of the blackness to assail you. This sad, sorrowful motif – graceful as it is powerful, is peppered throughout the duration of ‘Clark’. Snippets emerge here and there, most notably in the final section of ‘There’s a Distance in You’, but usually, like a shadow, it is a presence you are aware of but can never clearly delineate.
These moments of peaceful melancholy are offset against periods of real and pounding aggression. In a nod to the oscillating techno of his acclaimed ‘Superscope’ EP back in the spring, the seismic kick of ‘Sodium Trimmers’ and driving percussion of ‘Silvered Iris’ show that Clark, despite his endearing unconventionality, still knows how to get a dancefloor heaving.
The juxtaposition between a gritty techno aesthetic and melodic ambience is also explored within individual tracks to powerful effect. The tender xylophone chimes of ‘Snowbird’ are rendered as delicate as their track name through their positioning alongside stark, dissonant percussion, whilst the increasingly frantic piano of ‘Strength Through Fragility’ is made all the more beautiful by the way it is slowly and inexorably drowned out by a forbidding sweep of bass. The infectiously euphoric melody of ‘The Grit in the Pearl’ serves as the album’s mid-section climax, bursting quickly into life before dissolving into a trademark Clark dissolution of fuzzy, muted crackles.
‘Clark’ is a deeply personal album. From its dramatic introduction to beautiful close, Chris Clark has created an achingly affecting electronic album that demonstrates his profound ability to create music that is unsurpassed in its technical physicality and emotional depth. It’s a refreshing, effortlessly forward-thinking record that reinforces Clark’s position as one of the finest artists on Warp’s roster.
‘Clark’ is out now on Warp. Buy it here.