This is the prolific Chris Clark’s fourth album for Warp, and since he dropped the first name from his artist title his mission to make beats has become ever more urgent. Here he crosses over fully from bolder trip hop influenced styling to something approaching twisted house music.
Categorisation doesn’t really help here though, for it provides little in the way of clues for what lies ahead. From the start of Hidden Dragon, Clark throws beats at the listener with such aplomb that ducking for cover becomes the only option – especially if listening on headphones!
And yet it would be wrong to dismiss this as a virtuosic piece of drum tracking. Clark knows how to spin a melody through the quasi-industrial breakbeats that dominate the album’s opening, so even if the breezeblocks are being thrown around the warehouse there’s always something interesting going on alongside.
Take the melody that gradually rises to take over Ache Of The North, or the popular sounding riff that gets put through the bacon slicer on Beg. Elsewhere he even shows willingness to take loops that Philip Glass might use, applying them to good effect.
Clearly Clark has a keen ear for sounds and beats that go well together, and while that sounds like a given it’s not always an easy thing to attain. When the beats get heavier, as they frequently do on this album, the sounds react accordingly, either providing far-off complements or jagged, more noise-based motifs.
On the more beat ridden tracks the feeling is akin to having played a particularly demanding and possibly violent computer game. Emotion isn’t in short supply though, which is opposite to what you might expect, and while Volcun Veins might sound like gunfire from the console in the next room, as it shifts quickly from one foot to the other it’s impossible not to feel edgy along with the composer.
For a single soundbite, try the first 30 seconds. Mid-range beats shift around nervously, looking for somewhere to land, before the almighty thud of Clark’s kick drum weighs anchor. It’s the moment that confirms his step up from welterweight to heavyweight, and helps define his sound. It’s still suitable for soundtracking, that’s for sure – but it might be speed-fuelled games for the senses rather than greyer, concrete sonic landscapes. Turn it up loud and scare the neighbours!