Clark, the English beat programmer/producer has a new LP called "Totems Flare" out tomorrow on Warp. In all honesty, I really haven't liked any of Clark's other material. As yet, I've found his stuff too aggressive and cold for my house and IDM tastes, which generally seek either a more limber, playful set of move sequences or approaches so minimal and scientistic they become a kind of dance lab test for the inheritors of musique concrete. This time around though he finds some really ingenious ways out of his icey dance floor restrictions without losing his sense of repose. The beats are have a lot less digital bite to them, they are warmer, in a way, without being warm necessarily, as if cut with a rusty blade. Two of my favorite tracks, "Future Daniel" and the standout "Totem Crackerjack" draw a clear lineage back to Squarepusher, one of the godfathers of Warp, in their anthemic, baroque use of arpeggiators; rounded square waves cycling through a series with a sense of internal harmonic logic, not unlike the harmonic rotation of a jazz tune.
"Totem Crackerjack" especially, after a few minutes auditioning and jumpcutting through various other modes, gears itself up into a pattern that bears striking (and for me deeply emotional) resemblance to the classic Squarepusher "A Journey to Reedham". Squarepusher's pioneering style of beat shifting, basically giving birth to the notion of IDM, in retrospect looks a little too much like pure virtuosity. Clark on the other hand isn't sacrificing his own dance motivating capabilities, and yet at the same time, as this record proves, he's seriously interested in formal adventure, not to mention dips into sound design, boom bap, and post rock. Check out "Talis" for the best (and only) time you'll here a combination of Interpol, Radiohead, Anticon, and Aphex. It's what I wish TV on the Radio would do if they only simplified their ensemble with a few more computers and synths. Anybody who has heard them live knows this to be true. It's one thing to mix a record with 10 instruments, its another to play live with 10 instruments when you have 2 different members of your group who refuse to turn down their instruments to a reasonable level. But I digress...
One last point before you listen, 'Totems Flare' has a nice sense of flow over the whole album. This is largely due to a couple really gorgeous ambient cuts that let the harder, housier numbers have a sense of breathing room. Thankfully these are not throwaways. "Primary Balloon Landing", with its delicate panning and EQing would impress even the geekiest of studio dudes, maybe even Matmos. And "Absence" is a pointed piece of melancholy that wouldn't be out of place on a Caribou record. I like that he included these vignettes, it shows that he's stretching a bit into territories other than the dirty, dark corners of clubs.

Clark - Totem Crackerjack

Clark - Future Daniel

Clark - Talis

Clark - Primary Balloon Landing

Clark - Absence

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