Sixteen years since his debut and eight albums later, a now rightly considered cornerstone of Warp’s core artist base, Clark, lines up what is sure to amount to his most cutting edge and immaculately scored vision of varied dancefloor dynamics and richly-ground techno hydraulics with the high-rise hypnotics that make up Death Peak.
Having first appeared way back in 2001 with the brain-hammering Clarence Park album, Chris Clark (as he was then known) instantly slotted in perfectly with both the old and new artists that made up the cutting-edge Warp vanguard. While his music, at times reflected a strong influence bled in from the caustic industrial puzzles of Autechre and the analogue post-jungle crunch of AFX & Squarepusher, Clark melted these influences down into a concrete vat that carried a strong influence of out and out techno. On occasion, he has taken this need 2 jack and let it rise to the forefront of his productions (as found best on the killer off-kilter Turning Dragon LP). It’s on Death Peak though that he transcends all of these influences fully and firmly to the front of his mind and sequencer to create a flooring vision of post-genre electronica.
Having had the album title going round in his head since summer last year, Death Peak sounds a lot like you might imagine it would, albeit in your wildest hopes and dreams, given its serious title. Truly an incredible and starkly visceral series of recordings, Clark appears to take a strong influence from the battered 12″s of mid 90s warehouse techno and drum & bass that litter so many of our collections, yet mixes them with the ethereal electronics and library record exploration previously unheard from him. This is all topped off with a dose of perfectly peppered throughout and rare use of the human voice, described by Clark as “the most perfect synth”.
Opening in a truly cinematic style, Spring But Dark expertly sets the scene for what is to follow, pulling its lavish cloak collar up and treading through streets that carry an undercurrent of wrong footed electro that, if you think is gonna stay beatless soon rears its head from the mist and says naaahhh. We are heading strictly 4 tha underground. Quickly moving full charge ahead, Clark dips into the endless revisions of Butterfly Prowler, a track that has the same erratic quality, yet is crafted to be streamlined in for prime Funktion 1 activity, building on the same off-kilter chaos that made Punters Step Out by Joe such a dizzying success.
Up next, Peak Magnetic attracts the sort of PointillisticT heights of freshly the initiated into the crew Lorenzo Senni may adopt, all the while revising his earlier takes on neo-glow-house with ease. Hoova builds a rough chugging drum beat that sounds like shards of it are literally splitting off and flying out of the speakers as each hits takes you deeper into the dark. This reaches its Death Peak with the move to knock away the trends of beatless wax with Slap Drones, taking the album more in the direction of stop/start minimalist electro that has the destructive break of a classic Instra:mental number, if it were reshaped by a rave hungry Bjarki.
Taking a breather, Aftermath glides further into the recesses of Clark’s stunning soundtrack work for The Last Panthers, whilst Catastrophe Anthem melts things down into a swirling pool of mangled vocals and chops out a fat one with a blindin’ Body Riddle percussive swing. Living Fantasy furthers this exercise with highly attuned yet ultra-compressed synths giving a dry, yet outwardly gleaning experimental edge that is as sharp as a thousand knives, yet carries a weightless glide that’s as sweetly salacious as it is a straight double barrel shot to the neck intoxicant. Ending with the anthemic choral praise of Un U.K. things take a sharp turn to the left with a teeth clenching ride through the album’s different soundscapes, from the bittersweet beginnings through a zigzag of cross section synthesis and into the digital delay No-U Turn techstep torque of the centrefold before slowly bubbling away and dissolving itself into a Popol Vuh style freefall ambience.
Death Peak cements Clark as one of the most innovative and singular artists to ever release a record on Warp, much like those that lay the foundations before; Aphex, Plaid, Autechre & Nightmares On Wax through to the subsequent new wave of ahead of their time and all those around artists, Lorenzo Senni, Hudson Mohawke, Kelela & Evian Christ. Death Peak finds Clark in the middle, one foot in the label’s historic glories and one foot in the rave. A true pioneer the hypnotic groove, and constantly yet carefully constructing sounds that will lay down the blueprint for the future.