Album Reviews

Dave Clarke – Devil’s Advocate

UK release date: 3 November 2003


Dave Clarke’s brand of techno has proved so flexible that even amongst the fraternal company of international DJs, his remix credits have a range that betray his own diversity of tastes.

After re-tooling tracks from the likes of Green Velvet, Depeche Mode, Mirwais and a list of other names as sundry as the noises available on music-making software, you would be entitled to expect the one called Dave’s second album proper to be a shape-shifting affair.

And yea, Devil’s Advocate appears amongst us in a variety of techno contours, but each one determined to provide the darker end of the spectrum inherent in this set’s title. But then techno was never conceived to be a light-hearted affair, even if its more extreme tendencies are said to envelop its afficionados in a dream-like trance state with or without chemical / synthetic assistance.

The key track here is the re-imagining of What Was Her Name, originally the work of Pete Murphy‘s proto-goths Bauhaus, who themselves revelled in the air of arty decadence in which guest vocalists Chicks On Speed would like to imagine themselves. The post-industrial gloom that wafted off the likes of Joy Division infected much of the Brit indie-pop of the early ’80s period that Clarke namechecks as an influence, and Bauhaus typified.

Whether intentional or not, What Was Her Name succeeds in being a lotta fun, and Devil’s Advocate has an accessibility that even casual observers of techno may enjoy. If there is a darkness to this album it’s one that’s content to go trick-or-treating rather than getting up in a Captain Kirk face-mask and blunting the carving-knife on the local populace.

There are traces of Clarke’s early hip-hop spinning days with the company of rapper Mr Lif on Blue On Blue, which captures the war-zone circling air of danger that you’ll find more regularly employed by Warp’s Anti-Pop Consortium. The Wiggle approximates some B-line distortion that would be comfortable sitting on superior contemporary R ‘n’ B, and is also just a little bit digital hardcore.

Techno’s eternal love of persistent movement, as exemplified by the erotic charge of the automobile, is clear and present in the triumvirate of Deo Gratias, Stay Out Of The Light, and Just Ride. But amongst the discordant clanging there lies some of Devil’s Advocate’s more meandering, more indulgent moments, though perhaps ones that will transmit more clearly to the frequencies of the techno purists.

The Chicks return less effectively on Disgraceland, a generalised and slightly out-of-place diatribe against pop’s media-created sub-cultures, where they’re in the company of scratchy-guitar and African drums; the sum of the parts is generally less effective than the whole. However, the Afro-Latin sampling does propel The Wolf into more effective, visceral, tribal areas.

Overall though, Clarke is never content to let the pulse of the music do all the work, and pretty much all tracks are assembled with loving, if malevolent care. He’s also keen that techno stays true to its hedonistic roots, with Addendum including the line, “We are the adrenal people / We need action.” That sounds better to these ears than, say, “Tough on the causes of crime,” etc, etc.


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