Friday, 9 March 2012

Clark - Iradelphic

There's no denying Englishman Chris Clark can produce ground-shattering speaker-rusting music from such simple constructs as the many synths and drum machines electronic music can find itself emerging from. My review of 'Turning Dragon' last year was undeniable proof of Clark's clear-cut deliverance of this. And though previous release 'Totems Flare' may have been a slightly smoother and soluble blip in both its content and its deliverance, there's no denying this man's sound stands atop the many waverings of analog effects and chirpy organs that litter the IDM databanks. So it's thankful that 2012 marks the return of Warp's most notoriously rough-edged musician, 'Iradelphic' the name for this twelve-track outing.

Unlike most musicians in the same field, Clark seems to find no purpose in over-longing the lengths of his compositions - Iradelphic here the first album since his debut 'Clarence Park' to run short of the forty-minute mark - but much like his discography that follows the same path, the tracks here don't tend to fall short because of it. And even if opener 'Henderson Wrench' is considered a total one-eighty on instrument choice alone - a murmur of Latin-swung guitars followed soon by a rustle of percussion underneath - Clark retains his signature hypnotic-yet-sudden pass across the waves of his compositions. Even if it is a major contrast, it's an intriguing build-up to 'Com Touch' which snaps back to the mesmerizing lull of records previous, its darting analog expanses exemplifying a rustle of conjured melodies. The drums which then kick-in at the half-way mark take control of the rhythm and it amplifies the track far from such simple ecstasy.

Indeed, instruments of both string and organ origin are used in as equal measures - if not more - to that of percussion as is showcased on 'Tooth Moves'...but it's the percussive organics to these drums, clashing alongside the grittiness and worming of synths, that really do make their mark here. The album doesn't, like 'Body Riddle' or 'Turning Dragon', try and extrovert (almost pressurize) us into a state of emotive mentality. Instead, it's almost responsive, in contrast to expressive. The synths feel more thought-out and considered; the layering more balanced and proportionate to one another. And in result, the overall mix and end result feels secure and protective. The stop-start ambiguity of 'Open', which introduces the use of vocals here, compliments earlier instrumentation with wavering lyrics - the up-and-down progression of organs and drumbeats establishing a somewhat tense and nervy lead through.

As I find myself listening through to the album, there is that sense that maybe this safe-guarded recurrence that flows through the record isn't all bad news. True, it feels like at any second the tracks - and indeed, the album thereafter - may slip into a totality of pure neutral ground (and for a Clark record, that's hard to come by), but for whatever reason, it's executed quite well given the palette of instrumentation usually is that of synths and percussion of whatever shape or form (or even filter). But it isn't always necessarily bad. 'Ghosted', for example, which isn't exactly the most forward-thinking, forward-thrusted track Clark has produced, still manages to conjure up this clankety-clank maneuverability that grits along with rusty intent.

But if the 'Iradelphic' of previous was something of a mind-settler and nothing more than reactive, the grand scale and boldness in execution that is 'The Pining' certainly tears an almighty gap in that solidarity. Here, divided into three parts, 'The Pining' is as far from tolerant and secluded as its fellow counterparts. Part 1 refuses to keep to the same joyous swing, wavering between nestled strings, hand-clapping and hand-smacking drums and the overall intensity of something that, indeed, becomes emotive and refusing to remain still. Part 2 twists this uneasily empathetic nervousness into something more on par with that of a dance or disco-glittered arena. The rising and falling of synths and string patterns remains, but behind the crunch and rustle that becomes the track's epicenter, it - along with these angelic-like voices that descend from above us - the response becomes more echoed and voided. And as if this were some chronicle of departure or vanishment, Part 3 feels more ambient and open; the shortest of the trilogy, it drifts off into obscure wails. Quite fitting then that closer 'Broken Kite Footage' feels almost drained - almost without awareness - that it produces this distant droning of what feels like an organ sound but feels too clouded and opaque that it becomes merely lost in the absurdity of 'The Pining's ever-stretched shadow.

If you're like me and enjoyed Clark's more rougher, more grittier deliverance of sound, 'Iradelphic' may be harder to, not so much grasp, but envisage as something that passes on the torch of testing our approach to these altered sounds - these rearranged instrumentals and roughened programming of synthetic beats. But there's no doubting Clark has not lost touch with electronic music's finer details. And while there is more to think about, it's not something that's going to be requiring any revision or ventures into the knowledge banks. Rather than seeing his dark, rusted edges of sound experimentation being tarnished, consider them instead, polished and refined: a new day, a new discovery...a new venture.



  1. I'm pretty sure Turning Dragon came out before Totems Flare.

    1. Above is correct. Enjoyed the review otherwise.