In Manchester one evening earlier this year, I found myself standing in a one-man queue. After about 15 minutes of waiting for my first sonic sermon from the ever-reliable Warp standby Chris Clark, I began to wonder if I was the only one who considers this man to indeed be “ever-reliable.” After all, many reviews of his music can’t seem to help but implicate him as some sort of odd cousin in the Warp family, reaching for but not quite attaining the heights of Daddy Richard and Uncles Sandison. Soon enough a trio of excited, self-described ‘old ravers’ that filed in behind me pushed my ponderings to the side.
They engaged me in a (mostly) 1-way conversation that lasted most of the night, playing out very similarly to how I could see myself accidentally lecturing youngsters about Flying Lotus at shows in 20 years. It was all very warm, genuine and friendly but nothing particularly enlightening, save for one bit: “Aural paintings, mate! That ’s what these are, and that’s why we’re here.”
Skip ahead some months, and I’m intrigued to see Warp marketing Clark’s new self-titled LP as “more Berghain than Guggenheim.” Why downplay the presence of audio-art explorations that many consider such an essential part of the Warp experience? Maybe to appease those disappointed by his previous record (the criminally underrated Iradelphic) that found itself at times exploring a delicate and less dance oriented, guitar-filled head-space? Perhaps.
But once you blast Clark for the first time, there’s no doubting that they were right: this record is intense and heavy. Although nearly half of the running time is essentially beat-less, the overall vibe is decidedly kinetic, and there’s an undeniable weight to the ambient compositions that accompany the more direct techno scorchers. And when said tracks ignite, the synths crackle with electricity, the kick drums feel as if they could rip you to shreds by accident, and only occasionally do the rhythms stray from the steady pulse of that Berlin sound.
Clark has commented on how thrilled he is to release this record in November, as it does indeed have a top layer of winter’s chill embedded within it. But when he describes the album as “customized for winter,” I think of what’s below the ice. This record feels like reverberations of the warmth of people dancing in basements underneath freezing sidewalks and inside snow-covered buildings. It’s like a sort of celebration of the season’s melancholy- you can’t be ecstatic unless you know what it’s like to be miserable.
The record also feels like the most succinctly “Clark” collection of tracks he’s released in a while, and is quite assured of its world. I contend that this is his strongest album in years, arguably the best since Body Riddle, not only because the songs are genuinely strong and quite good, but also because it feels like he’s grown new confidence in his abilities. The eponymous title choice feels like a cheeky little reminder from the man that he has an impressive way with waveforms that’s purely his own, and he wants you to say his name.
Words: Nick Dalessio