The prolific IDM producer and Warp Records stalwart Clark unearths fresh and reinvigorating directions with his latest, surefooted recording, ‘Death Peak’, weaving a smattering of celestial, disembodied vocal effects and booming rave textures into his symphonic sprawl and conjuring a vivid array of moods.
Chris Clark is one of those names in modern music whose unfussy and steady excellence is easily taken for granted; whilst other names on the Warp roster have been more zeitgeist-defining (Aphex Twin), cultish (Boards Of Canada), name-checked (Autechre) or crossover (Battles), the thirty-seven-year-old has quietly amassed a serious body of work that flits between trip-hop, break-beat, ambient, noise, post-rock, modern classical, techno and electro whilst collapsing oppositions and restrictions, evading pigeon-holing and eliciting the warm humanity in machines. Perhaps this virtuoso versatility, an effortless swimming between disparate moods and motifs, has counted against him in terms of a break-out recording or a soundbite-friendly musical style, but his curiosity and invention have never wavered.
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‘Death Peak’ follows the composer’s 2016 foray into TV soundtrack work, namely the crime-noir ‘The Last Panthers’, and the two records share little in common save for a kinship with demure melody and atmosphere and a marriage of the electronic and elemental. ‘Butterfly Prowler’ and ‘Peak Magnetic’ are two intense, effusive techno gallops, the latter’s jittery, sky-scraping euphoria propelled by simmering beats and a synthetic choir akin to the angelic sighs on Brian Eno’s masterpiece, ‘Music For Airports’.
‘Hoova’ prowls menacingly like a cross between John Carpenter, Oneohtrix Point Never and Arca, the arpeggiated synths of ‘Living Fantasy’ fashion an enthralling ‘end of the world is nigh’ soundscape whilst the creepy ‘Catastrophe Anthem’ is like a ‘Stranger Things’ off-cut laced with the sumptuous, wordless reverie of Julianna Barwick.
‘Un U.K.’ begins like a folksy, music-box Boards of Canada before juddering into cavernous rhythmic stabs and returning to washes of stirring ambience. The captivating ‘Aftermath’ introduces a lissom harpsichord and brims with an ethereal wonder.
‘Death Peak’ is the rich, singular sound of a mature, evolving artist operating within the shadows of established scenes and genres and continuing to subsume styles with elan. Alternately evoking a sun-kissed tranquillity and a paranoid urgency throughout, there’s a strangely satisfying coherence in the juxtaposition of sledgehammer rave dynamics, mangled voices and meditative, icy tones, merging the groggy darkness of the early hours with the overarching radiance of sunsets.
This record delivers a twinkling elixir for those tired of formulaic, lowest common denominator pop and douchebag dance music; heady but visceral, untutored and yet precise at the same time.
‘Death Peak’ is available on Warp Records.