Clark has been making records full of inventive and, at times, brutal electronica for Warp for over a decade. But there is something quite different about his sixth album Iradelphic. Previous Clark albums have focused primarily on relentless sonic invention and were slightly difficult collections of warped dance music, but Iradelphic is a significant step forward and develops a progression that was hinted at on his last album Totems Flare. It is a progression into more organic, live sounds and in turn, Iradelphic is perhaps the first Clark album that you can fall in love with rather than be merely impressed by.
There is a vibrancy and lightness to Iradelphic that immediately sets it apart from his earlier work. The album has been borne out of Clark’s decision to pursue more live shows and Iradelphic is certainly an album that is designed to be performed ‘in the flesh’. A wide range of instruments are used; both guitars and piano form the basis of a number of tracks. Henderson Wrench is based on a wonderful Latin guitar sound and coupled with Clark’s restless, skittering percussion it is an incredibly immersive and impressive opener.
Even when the music is predominately synth based the sound is light and airy rather than dark and punishing, and there is a lovely mellifluous quality to Com Touch and Skyward Bruise/Decent’s twinkling synthesised sounds.
Iradelphic displays a more refined sound for Clark and definitely sees him exploring new sounds. There is an enveloping warmth that makes it supremely easy to listen to, which is not something that can normally be said about Clark’s music. The almost folk-like guitar of Tooth Moves, coupled with the jazzy experiments of Open, are both perfect examples of Clark breaking new melodic ground while still keeping a sense of invention that runs through all his work.
In keeping with Iradelphic’s move to a richer, more melodic sound, the album features Clark’s best use of vocals with a guest appearance from Bristol singer Martina Topley-Bird on the glorious Secret. Reminiscent of a lighter Portishead, Secret is a wonderfully soulful track with Topley-Bird’s sumptuous vocals combining with Clark’s understated hip-hop beat.
There are some curious interludes on Iradelphic that help make the album a beguiling piece of work. The ornate piano piece Black Stone offers an example of Clark’s musical skills and its unadorned sound is immediately striking and subtly affecting. This interlude leads in to the album’s centrepiece, the three-part suite The Pining, which shows all the facets of Clark’s sound. Part 1 is a jittery mix of percussion and synths that never quite stay still and are almost impossible to pin down. Part 2 progresses the sound into dancier, funkier territory with clipped beats and what sounds like an African tribal vocal sample. Part 3 completes the piece with blissful washes of sparkling synths.
The final track is the ambient electronica of Broken Kite Footage. Melancholic, even desolate ambient sounds are found throughout the record and after repeated listens that melancholy will become ever more affecting and engaging.
Iradelphic is certainly Clark’s most accessible record and it is arguably his best. It is difficult for an artist who is renowned for a particular sound and style to break free from what is expected but with Iradelphic Clark has established a new sound for himself and a direction for the future that promises to be extremely interesting indeed.