Thursday, 29 December 2011

Clark - Turning Dragon


If there's one music genre - or at least, one coined term - that leaves both listener and artist alike reeling in disgust at its very mention, it's IDM. Intelligent Dance Music: the potentially pretentious and elitist view that any music that (un)fortunately finds itself fall under this name is both complexly arranged and requires an advanced level of both knowledge and wisdom. No one likes to use it, yet in every music directory or music sharing site out there, the term remains stuck...unwilling to move from both our eyes and our mind. It's a genre that has spawned an entire cast of prolific bar-raisers and sound pioneers. Whether it be the hand-clapping, mind-melting compositions of Aphex Twin & Squarepusher or the melodic experimentations of Autechre and µ-Ziq, electronic music has forever found its battlegrounds beyond the claustrophobic murmur of night clubs and DJ sets, but now more than ever, casting endless streams of melody and beat across all walks of life.

It's no surprise then that a lone British musician by the name of [Chris] Clark, finds his developmental persona caught up in this expansive outlaying; electronic music creeping from out of the drum machines and synths built only for the rhythm and timing of a human's hands and feet, now lingering in the darkest and (potentially) most invigorating parts of our mind. It's even less of a surprise that we can look back on the first decade of this (still new) century and find lesser difficulty in picking out this form of electronic music that does indeed expand on a sole being's experimentalism and personal approach to melody.

But Clark - surname now the preferred moniker - is never one for simple self-discovery. True, his first two outings demonstrated a key ear for the "out there" - the World beyond the horizon; music for the mind rather than the body - but it was game-changer Body Riddle that spun Clark onto a new axis of not just discovery of one's self, but expression of other's feelings, the collective response.

Clark's forth selection of self-made "riddles" is more centralist and cogent as a result. Opener 'New Year Storm', though offers a glimpse into that past life of electronic music, faint beats alluring to some late night club of social gathering, is quick to strike a blow to any hints of nostalgic return (as if some form of trickery), hart hitting drum patterns in a menacing marching rhythm stand alongside the twitches of synths and sharp glitchy pops. It's a theme that follows suit and is one, we quickly learn, has very little when it comes to using overlay to soften things up. If anything, following tracks 'Volcan Veins' - quicker in pace, more gibberish in its vocal annotation - and the glitchy almost combustible 'Truncation Horn' suggest that if anything, is using its rough, rusty edges as its very medium to transpire these sounds.

And that is where we realize the truth of this record: this is no imagining of some far-stretched fantasy in audio form, but rather a realization of something that could, potentially, be closer to home than we suspect. It's a no-holding-back fling into the harshness of everything completely agitative. Seven minute highlight 'For Wolves Crew', like some demented 'Bohemian Rhapsody' offspring, unravels - in three equally sprawled movements of synth-driven beats - clashes of rhythm, popping electronics and far-flung synthetic overlays all combining into one mind-melting blurb of sound.

Later tracks 'Ache of the North' - tantalizing flutters and breathless cries - and 'Mercy Sines' - volatile rumbles and siren-like wails - though differentiate on the album's direction, still maintain its menacingly invasive delve. Where the former half of Turning Dragon feels almost contortive and controlling, the follow-on is no doubt expansive and, as if in some unfortunate circumstance, subversive and influential. 'Hot May Slides', in some bizarre duality of fantasy and nightmare, wavers in a hypnotic horn-like bellow behind a rusty sand-like shuffling of drums.

A perfect way then to lead your listener/victim in to the penultimate outcry of roaring synths and adrenaline-fuelled beats that is 'BEG'. From the word go, the ferocity of its nature (and indeed, that of the whole album) brings about the most clarity of all Dragon's sound. It feels like some foreseen tragedy, a power unable to maintain its form - glitches of its beaming patterns as if ready to implode in on itself. It's easy in this case then to imagine Chris Clark in his studio as if he himself a mere witness too. A self-destruction of some apocalyptic-scale calling - pulled down by its own gravity of might and control...leaving nothing but a wasteland-esque of glitchy drum pads and a fog of melodic harmony. It leads then the album closer, 'Penultimate Persian' into, indeed, its own self-reflective naturism, pitched synths and organ-like humming clashing against one another, leaving only a faint echoing of warped (pardon the pun) outspokenness.

It's easy to see then why Clark is regarded as one of Warp Records' most iconic figures in the electronic music market. His total disregard for blissful re-imagining and fantastical ideals, leaves only a harsh, rusty - and so too, dark-natured - realization on the raw intensity of artificial sound. In an age drowning in security, protocol and automated optimism, it's invigorating - refreshing, even - to find something so against this 'cotton wool-wrapped' idealism. Something that, takes one look at blissful ignorance...and stabs it in the heart.

~Jordan

8.9

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