Chris Clark’s diversity creates it’s own musical universe. As an artist, he’s explored jazz drums paired with intricately programmed synthesizer melodies on Body Riddle, offensively loud territory on Tuning Dragon, and a profusion of genre bouncing and chaos on 2009’s Totems Flare. Whether the records were hit or miss, the six Long Play releases on his Warp Records catalog show evolution served as sonic keepsakes in the eyes of inspired listeners and contemporaries. His latest release, Iradelphic, delivers yet another stirring movement in Clark’s archive and exceptionally explores ground uncovered by the experimental producer’s previous works.
As stated in our announcement of the album, Clark disclosed that Iradelphic was a more expansive step for him and his elaborate approach is aurally apparent. “I don’t think I’ve ever recorded in so many diverse locations; there was a lot of field recording going on in Snape, Sussex, harpsichords and orchestral drums. All recorded with a variety of tools. From £8k Cold War microphones, bling studio set ups, to laptop microphones, crumbling cassettes, Dictaphones. It all got used.” Lo-fi recordings integrated with high fidelity ones can usually amount to one of two extremes: great or terrible, but luckily Iradelphic succeeds in the positive side of things.
While it proves true for the entirety of the record, it’s clear on lead promotional track “Com Touch” that the boundless actions toward the construction of the album are to be commended. Explosive sounds toward the tracks end are actually balloons recorded by Clark that were popped in Teufelsberg (Berlin, Germany) by Mike Jefford and Chris Jeffs. They’re intriguing in regard to the way they’re incorporated into the mix by being warped into compressed and delayed firework infused gunshots that stretch and make for a uncomplicated rhythmic effect that plays overtop of the intensely melodic structures.
Melody seems to be the main point on Clark’s latest and again, “Com Touch” is the most perfect example of driving this point home. It’s a constantly building piece that explores vast melodic pieces while having it’s rhythmic elements playing a more supportive and backseat role, but still remaining strong. As the song fades out, “Tooth Moves” approaches in as the next track and actually barrows one of the melodic synth lines from it’s predecessor and applies it into the opening measures of it’s piece. While it’s the absolutely insane synth that drops in a little over a minute into the track, it’s the underlying guitar that is a reminder of Iradelphic’s march into more acoustic grounds.
In fact, guitar overshadows over half of the album’s run (which clocks in at a little under forty minutes) and makes itself extremely known from the first second of the first track, “Henderson Wrench.” Two guitar melodies, one which plays an uncompressed acoustic vibe creates the introduction and sparse treatment before another joins it by creating a stereo, compressed, and reverberated treatment to the song. The guitars battle in and out of the mix and while shaker elements also dive in and out of the song to create a dense woodwork out of the open air. It’s the humanist element and experimental mixing techniques that take you through several spaces which contain a visual focal point. Dare we say it’s very Electronic-folk sounding in appeal.
Purely Electronic tracks like “Skyward Bruise/Descent” still thrive and live on their own support through the twelve tracks, but are more toned down and ambient compared to the rest of Clark’s latest cohesive piece. More filled with drones and somber moods, they’re necessary and a throwback to what Warp records pumps out most of: unapologetic, esoteric Electronic music that makes sense to the Intelligent Dance Music genre in it’s most adulterated form. “Broken Kite Footage” plays out like a Belong song in it’s drone atmosphere and is one of the highlights of the album, being a track that could be played low or at blasting volumes while still maintaining status as one of the most demonstrative, nerve touching remnants of the album.
“Broken Kite Footage” is based off of repeating melodies, full of dense reverberation and synth pad envelopes that are bewilderingly programmed and set up to convey a moving feeling throughout the music. Ambient field recordings can also be heard through the track’s background and have been stretched out with effects that add nostalgic sensation and focused feeling. It’s optimistic, but broken. Lethargic and melancholy all of the same.
Backtracking through Iradelphic, we have a quick piano solo entitled “Black Stone” (video directed by The Vikings can be seen here) which is a no frills, completely stripped down, talent filled two minute vision of Clark and piano. While repetitive, it’s necessary to carry the artistic vision of the album across and still manages to maintain handfuls of power in the two minutes and three seconds it has to prove itself beautiful enough to fit amongst the conjectural atmosphere that a Chris Clark record is made out of.
It does substantiate and does so elegantly by weaving together the first seven tracks with the three part “The Pining” epic that makes itself known toward the later parts of the disc. It’s also noted that this is the first piano solo piece to be featured on a record by this artist and something that leaves the imagination impassioned to know if it will be looked into on further records.
“The Pining” is broken down into two parts that contain even more live instrumentation and contain such authentic value to them that it tells a story from start to finish. The bossanova-esque vibe of part one punches as it ducks in different instruments and brings in a strapping and attention getting brass section, which blends in with smartly programmed synthesizers that take us into the next level of the trilogy. Parts two and three differ and vary greatly from each other, but it’s interesting to note that the dynamic range in part two is creatively squashed so that it becomes the glue between parts one and three so that the tracks can come together to create one big come up and come down.
Martina Topley-Bird vocalizes with Chris on two tracks and it’s the more simplistic “Open” which is the sparkle between the two collaborations. After a brief rhythmic absence through the intro of the track, a recapitulating and slowly transforming melody ducks in and out, all equally aiding the structure in a droopy, downtempo-inspired sluggish four to the floor-esque drum beat with sparkling panned hats. “Ever flow of a thousand lonely outlines” is repeated by the two through what seems like countless measurements but encompasses such core consciousness that it seems senseless if the phrase should ever stop repeating. It does eventually stop, and Clark ends the track with a solo vocal performance that’s vigorously drenched with a reverb effect that obscurely ends the track and makes for an abrupt, but satisfying conclusion.
The other Topley-Bird track, “Secret” plays like anything she’s ever sang on. From the Tricky collaborations to the later Massive Attack tracks, anything Martina touches seems to absolutely ooze with sentimental despair and the undemanding delayed and stuttering song structure is the pilot that provides the dark transportation before it’s eventually lightened up by a surprise ending of optimism with a playful “Ba-ba-bum-bum-ba-dum-dumm-dum” trot through sonic landscape that brings the morphing feeling together with a distorted and stretched sounding instrument that’s played out and struck in different velocities until it’s close finally voids anything but the reoccurring guitars.
Iradelphic plays strong with reoccurring elements but transports them through a musical landscape that’s heterogeneous in thought and painstakingly unique from start to finish. Though the mixing is a bit loud in some parts, the album never contains a mix that’s clipping and Clark has always been one to be full of volumes in his work. The two tracks with dynamic ranges of 11 deceibels rock just as hard as the ones with 3 or 4 dB of dynamic range and Iradelphic seems to be Clark’s most cohesive and greatest records in his growing body of work and is a chronicle in which gives hope to the full-scale ground Electronic music can cover.
Album Rating: 4.5/5
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