A shift of pace from the Warp artist produces some interesting results.
Chris Parkin 2012
It’s interesting to note that the sleeve housing Chris Clark’s latest (sixth) album was designed by Ghost Box co-founder Julian House. That label’s USP is a thing called – ahem – hauntology, in which artists such as Belbury Poly stir electronic music and fragments of pop and public service ephemera into a heady, pastoral, melancholy brew. The other notable here is the helping-hand of Clark’s Warp labelmate and purveyor of his own bucolic electronica, Bibio. These are the two most-telling reference points for Iradelphic, if only because there’s not a lot that links it with Clark’s own canon.
As with previous Clark albums it is an intricate, boffin-clever, topsy-turvy album. But after two albums of pummelling, energy flash-informed electronica, it seems Clark’s determined not to be pigeonholed as that noisy Warp fella. He said as much recently when explaining that he’s "hunting down that elusive paradox. To create something that didn’t sound like what I’ve done before. But was also unmistakably me."
The obvious new development is the simple, looping guitar that’s present almost throughout. Then there’s the massive arsenal of instruments, from vintage Cold War microphones and harpsichords to modular synths, he employs. But more than anything it’s the mood that’s turned. It’s out with angry, abrasive head-bangers and head-scratchers, and in with warm, soothing, elegiac, sun-dappled tracks.
A few, such as the minimal piano piece Black Stone, appear as sketchy outlines still requiring colour. And certain segments might stray too far into folktronica territory for some heads. But there’s much to take in on this new path. The verdant Henderson Wrench, with its weaving guitar picking, and the melodic synth progressions of Corn Touch recall the pretty, TV theme-inspired work of Bibio and the exotic curios in the Ghost Box catalogue.
Two tracks feature the brittle bluesy voice of Martina Topley-Bird. The first, Open, is a shuffling, trippy tune beautiful in its simplicity. The second, Secret, is rickety trip hop with found sounds. But the definite highlight is a 10-minute triptych called The Pining. On it Clark nails this gentle tone he’s aiming for without dulling his madder tendencies – it drifts through tin-pot melancholia, a burst of In Rainbows-era Radiohead pop, a ghostly house breakdown, and then concludes with Nils Frahm-like minimalism, all twinkly prettiness with a fondness for Tangerine Dream and sunrises peeping through hedges. Some Clark fans will be disappointed with Iradelphic, but many others will see the promise in this little treasure.