It was well over a year ago now that Warp Records announced they'd signed a new artist named Chris Clark to their label. At the time, they put a song called "Diesel Raven" up on their site in MP3 format for people to download, and I hopped on that racket quicklike. The track itself was a sputtering piece of shimmering electronic that won me over immediately, and I played the heck out of it. As the months passed, though, the name slipped into the background while all kinds of other artists came to the foreground with albums that I had to own.
Jump ahead 8 months to now, and again I'm playing catchup on the music for the year that has already passed. With interests in so many areas, it's inevitable that I miss at least 30-50 albums over the course of each year which I simply can't afford. Clarence Park was one of them, but after it was again brought to my attention by a friend, I set out to finally find it.
I'm glad that I did, too. In a year in which many big-name Warp artists (see Squarepusher, Aphex Twin) sort of failed to impress me with their output, other lesser-knowns have popped up and surprised me with awesome releases (see Prefuse 73). I can now add Chris Clark to that category as well, as Clarence Park is a very sharp debut, and hopefully just the start of more work with the label. Although the familiar, old-school sounds poke through at some points, the surprising thing about the release is that it was put together on what most people would consider very atiquated equipment. It's just another example of when a musician has great ideas, it really doesn't matter how they get them out.
The disc opens up with the short piece "Pleen 1930s," which is a beautiful, quiet gem which simply sounds like a solo piano treated with a couple bits of electronic trickery. "The Dogs" shatters that peaceful mode with batch of growling electronic pulses that shudder and groan along with dark precision. If it is indeed a song about dogs, the dogs it's speaking of probably look something like the robotic hunters in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. "Proper LoFi" mixes up stuttering percussion with beautiful arpeggios while "Lord Of The Dance" drops some goofy sound samples in over a chunky beat and light melody, making it feel something like labelmates Plaid. Meanwhile, Clark offsets the longer, proper tracks with shorter pieces like the haunting "Oaklands" and the buzzing intensity of "The Chase."
And yes, the aforementioned "Diesel Raven" even finds a home on the disc, which rounds out the end of the disc with the dark washes of "Shrewland." When the 14 tracks are done playing, only 31 minutes have passed, which really leads me to my only major complaint of the disc; it feels a little too short. Whereas many artists don't seem to know when to end things, there are several places on Clarence Park where I wish Clark would have extended different themes he'd started or built on tracks and continued them. It's never as if things end abruptly, but there are moments where it sounds like an idea you wished he would have pursued. Still, perhaps because of the short running time, it's also priced lower than most Warp discs, and if you were disheartened (as I was) by some of the bigger names, Clark will give you more hope for the future.