Peering into the Bright Underblack

Totems Flare

Let’s have a shot at the impossible, shall we?  Let’s take a quick glance at Clark’s new record.  If you haven’t already, you should absolutely listen to the new Clark record, out on Warp, Totem’s Flare.  He has recovered from his much too dance-oriented 2008 outing, Turning Dragon, and is again wending at high and highly engaging speeds through the musical microspaces between the very fascia and connective tissue of audible reality.  He is back on form, raging with too-hot off kilter beats over distant and eerie sample spaces and, a first for him, a good show of none-too-shabby redefinition of overprocessed vocals.  The music snaps and oozes viscously like a musically demolished body, a skeleton articulated and rearticulated through automated filters by an undead Paganini.  I included “Rainbow Voodoo” off this record in a recent playlist on this very blog.

Clark is one of the most original musicians working in the electronic genre today, and, though I don’t think he’s widely been given this due in all the deserved praises he’s been lauded with, I would put him on an equal footing, from the standpoint of pioneering new sound, with Aphex Twin.  He’s a genius with texture and timing, which is where his last album failed.  It’s precisely the point he picks back up and attacks with a a vengeance on this record.

All meaningless imagist poetics and music crit hyperbole aside (these songs are a unicorn bouncing on a cloud of light, sipping untroubled on a leisurely idle day from a warm bowl of delicious broth, etc.), this is one of the albums of 2009.

Let’s turn our attention back to that single track from Totems Flare, “Rainbow Voodoo.”

The rubber ducky saw and square waves give way in the process of modulation to a psychopathic hybrid sound between bagpipe and a saxophone.  Do you hear that?

All artists, all pioneers, must find their antecedent in something, be it raw necessity or the barely cleared path through the brush of cultural morass some intrepid or crazy souls perhaps accidentally blazed before them once, long ago, before abandoning it or being lost.  The only other artist that I have heard using this type of sound effectively is T. Raumschmiere, most notably on his very, very good 2003 Mute release Radio Blackout.

Radio Blackout

Listen to “I’m not Deaf, I’m Ignoring You”, from that record.

While this saxophone/bagpipe squeal/scream is not a sound on exactly the same aural spectrum, there is overlap of intent here.  Other critics can pigeonhole Clark for the atmospheric influences of Warp labelmates Boards of Canada, but I want to put him both here, in the aggro with T. Raumschmiere and there, in the with the hypnotized by distant church bells set.  And, then again, he sits in that rarefied category of genius and attention to detail only artists like Aphex Twin attain.