Pierre Party Saturday August 22

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

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Clark – Growls Garden EP

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

I’ve always liked Clark, ever since he was known as “Chris Clark” and releasing tracks that the naysayers were writing off as sub-aphex slag. I saw huge gems in Clarence Park and I eagerly anticipated his next release, which, for many years I was certain would never arrive. When it finally did, it was met with a mixture of excitement and disappointment. The thrill of the new bleeps and blops and scrapes and grinds and that deep, echoey bass that feels like it’s surrounding you, they were all present, but the depth of melody felt lacking. The EPs and LPs kept coming and with each one, that newfound excitement returned, but there have always been tracks that left me aching for something more, while others blew my mind entirely.

Turning Dragon, despite lacking for a softer, quieter side, felt like a solid fix to this problem: he had finally created an album that just tore my ass up with every track. Yes!

Here, Clark is trying something new: vocals, and I feel like it works for him. The title track is an absolutely amazing piece of work, with echoes of “Wicked Life” from the Throttle Clarence EP, it is rare that a song can start strong and then just continue to get stronger and stronger, but this one does. The repeated vocal line, well, honestly it doesn’t add much, but it’s not taking anything away, and it makes it feel like a song, rather than just another electronic track from just another electronic musician. It manages to have the epic powerhouse feel of the best-ever nine inch nails songs but without the angsty teenage livejournal drivel of Reznor’s lyrics.

The Magnet Mine takes a while to find its stride but it has moments of greatness, and the spazzy, high-pitched intro eventually settles into a groove that is captivating.

Seaweed feels designed to disorient, I can picture Clark sitting at a synth with his hand on the volume knob, watching someone in a tiny white room listening to the track, feeling the groove and bobbing their head, and just when the test subject gets comfortable with the beat, he turns the knob, sending blasts of noise into the chamber and upsetting the mood, sending the subject into fits of terror and confusion. It’s an interesting accomplishment, but not one I’m certain I can consistently tolerate.

Gonk Roughage brings back the vocals, this time playing with another style: the chopped up hip-hop spoken word. The song is driven and it makes heads bob, and as usual, Clark throws in so many maddeningly variable effects that it never kills your attention span, but it’s not as visceral and moving as Growls Garden.

“Distant Father Torch” is the second highlight of this record, feeling like the dance club sequel (or prequel) to “Cremation Drones.” If “drones” was the sound of being locked in a coffin and pushed into the flames, this is the funeral service in the giant menacing church, tall stained glass windows towering above, the sound of the organ fuzzing in and fuzzing out, building the tension as you walk toward the open casket for that look inside.

The EP ends on the usual Clark note, with the ambient, droney number “Farewell Mining Town.” The track itself is gorgeous, but the predictability left me a bit cold: it’s like the twist on an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you don’t know exactly what it will be, but you know it will be there. Clark puts himself on par with any track from Belong with this ambient piece, but I am dying for him to do something like this with a more melody oriented side, something I can hum, not just be numbed by.

I won’t call it a disappointment by any means. As usual, I found myself driving around and being blown away by the sounds I heard, but the title track built a tower that could not be climbed by the rest of the EP. However, if that song is any indication of what’s to come, there’s a lot more to look forward to from Clark.

Listen to a sample of the title track at Warp Records

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