13 January 2015

Clark: Clark (Warp)

I’ve written before about Chris Clark as someone I consider to be somewhat of an unsung hero in current electronic music. He often discovers and explores sounds well before the curve, sometimes exploring ideas that end up being watered down and more conventional in other hands, and rarely repeats himself from album to album. Every one of his opuses has a distinct vibe of its own, and his latest self-titled offering is no different. In sharp contrast to the guitar experimentation of his previous album Iradelphic, Clark is entirely electronic. Martina Topley-Bird is nowhere to be found, and while her presence was one of the most compelling aspects of Iradelphic, that Clark is willing to step away from pop music again rather than continue down the road to commercial viability is supremely refreshing. And yet Clark finds his sounds sometimes going down more easily than ever; “Winter Linn” is as close as he’s gotten to straightforward chillwave, but it still has his enthusiasm for sound all over it, along with that sense that he could throw listeners a curveball at any time.

But compared to his last live show I saw, he’s exercising considerable restraint here, allowing ideas to play out with clarity and deliberateness, less restless than he sometimes can be. While “Unfurla” shares a fast clip and techno fever in common with his Turning Dragon album from 2010, it’s substantially different, its rougher edges softened, less intent on destruction so much as adventure.

Along those same lines are “Sodium Trimmers” and “The Grit in the Pearl,” the latter of which features a jaunty steel drum-like refrain that recalls the most playful cuts of his debut, Clarence Park.

Elsewhere there are shades of Iradelphic lingering, like the arpeggio synth of “Beacon” or the delicate piano hook of “Strength Through Fragility,” or suggestions of Body Riddle on “Silvered Iris’” second half. But generally, as is so often the case, he’s fused those references to what he’s done before with some entirely new ideas and a different kind of tone, continuing to forge his own path in electronic music.

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