Album: CLARK – Turning Dragon (Warp WARPCD162 2008)

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Chris Clark made a pretty low key debut back in 2001 with Clarence Park, a brief collection of fourteen electronic vignettes. Only three breached the three minute barrier, but they showed an inventive spirit at work. Since then, Clark has developed into one of the most respected artists working in his field, although he has yet to gain widespread recognition. He’s successfully managed to juggle experimentalism with accessibility. His records need a bit of work, and his use of cut-up rhythms can be disorientating at times, but he avoids the over-trodden path of extremism for its own sake.

Unlike Autechre, who have charted a course from warm IDM to clinical, cold machine music (and to some extent, back again), Chris Clark hasn’t really followed a linear progression. Each album has been a separate entity in itself, but at the same time, recognisably his work. Turning Dragon follows this pattern. It’s not really similar to anything he’s done before, but at the same time it doesn’t seem un-Clark like.

The first thing that strikes the listener is that the beats have become simpler, but grimier (in every sense of the word). There are dubstep influences here, but also some rhythms that are almost gabba in their simple ferocity. The changes are immediately apparent in the opener, “New Year Storm”, which has the direct, in your face beats of a bangin’ house tune – only very, very mucky. There are parts of Turning Dragon that sound like Clark is attempting to make smooth, clean electronica using steam-powered equipment held together with rubber bands and bits of string. There is a stillness at the centre of tracks like “Violenl” which is never allowed to get the upper hand as dirty shards of noise and fractured, ruptured beats constantly pierce the mood. It’s a very loud album. Every tune seems to have tons going on, but paradoxically they never come across as cluttered or overworked. It would be a bugger to dance to, but unlike its predecessors, it wouldn’t be impossible.

It’s very hard to pick out highlights, but the Autechre-on-acid “Ache Of The North” is one of the best pieces I’ve heard in a long time. “For Wolves Crew” has a pure beauty at its heart, and the aforementioned opener “New Year Storm” carries a pretty serious statement of intent. Turning Dragon succeeds intellectually, emotionally and physically in a way that few records do. It’s Chris Clark’s most confident and perfectly realized statement to date – and possibly his most accessible too. A fantastic record.

Tracks
1 New Year Storm (4:05)
2 Volkan Veins (4:05)
3 Truncation Horn (2:19)
4 For Wolves Crew (7:00)
5 Violenl (3:43)
6 Gaskarth / Cyrk Dedication (4:53)
7 Ache Of The North (5:10)
8 Mercy Sines (3:19)
9 Hot May Slides (2:50)
10 Beg (4:13)
11 Penultimate Persian (5:01)

Website
www.throttleclark.com

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