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Clark - Totems Flare


It’s taken a while, but Chris Clark has finally delivered an album that fulfils much of the opinion that has been foisted upon him since his appearance with “Body Riddle” in 2006. Much of his aesthetic I felt was in compressing as much noise and sheer action into every available nook and cranny of each song he composed, producing this feeling of being utterly exhausted each and every time I listened to him. Whilst this density of sound in some cases can be fulfilling, I felt that that it often left me empty, in particular with “Turning Dragon”, an album that left me cold.

This new effort on Warp rarely strays from some of the more traditional forms of dance music we know, but is inflected with the British sensibility that we know from the likes of the Jenkinson brothers, Vibert et al - namely crushing bass, heavily treated vocals and abrupt changes of direction. The opener “Outside Plume” steadfastly refuses to conform to any sort of linear approach, veering wildly over a series of sonic landscapes before suddenly upping the tempo with a wild flourish at the end. Recent single “Growls Garden” is somewhat more melancholic, the vocal refrain just managing to retain a certain quality amongst the intensity of the production. It’s powerful stuff, and full of dynamics to boot. Likewise “Rainbow Voodoo” is almost schizophrenic in its transition from distorted breakbeat to colourful ambience. “Look into the heart Now” is refreshing if only for the lineage of old Warp records that it is inspired by, as 90’s style acid plays over the top of 909s. It slowly metamorphisizes into something far more interesting, as disembodied vocal samples slowly redress the track. This is impressive stuff, if only for the fact that Clark is producing compositions that have an organic feel to them.

Tracks such as “Totem Crackerjack” and “Future Daniel” continue this theme, mutating with an assured ease and never losing their kinetic energy. However I felt that after a time the frenetic energy of these tracks began to tire just a little bit. As said before, Clark’s music is often quite exhausting, and the tempo and sheer density of some of the later tracks, like “Talis”, became quite wearisome. Offkilter rhythms often led down unusual cul-de-sacs and one of the final tracks “Suns of Temper” just began to lose some of the magic that had accumulated earlier. Final track “Absence”, which is an ambient guitar-inflected number, however applied some salve to some of the sonic wounds I had collected on listening to this tough album.

For all the personal complaints though, “Totems Flare” is an energetic, experimental piece that showcases Clark’s production skills and talents superbly. There’s a rare abandon to this piece of work that often reaches new heights and I feel that he has moved on from the obscurantist approach that he began with, applying deft melodic touches that recall classic Warp era bleep music but without much recourse to nostalgia. There’s enough in this music sonically to keep you interested for a long time.

Toby Frith

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