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CLARK Sound Advice

Clark Pic: Alma Haser
Clark Pic: Alma Haser

The Red Bull Music Academy brings Berlin-based Warp Records dynamo, Clark, to Mojos this Sunday, January 25. MATTHEW TOMICH reports.

Chris Clark is a sonic chameleon. Now 13 years into his recording career, the 35 year-old Englishman has built a reputation on shifting seamlessly between every conceivable style of electronic music, ripping it up and starting again with each now release.

While he may call Berlin home, Clark spent much of 2014 away, touring Europe and North America and steeling away to the English country town of Lincolnshire to work on album number seven, the cinematic and eclectic Clark, released in November of last year. While most of his tracks are underpinned by beat and melody, the music he’s working on now is a world away from his extensive discography.

“I love just writing music that hasn’t got any rhythm or melody,” he says. “It’s purely textural sound collages and that will inform what I do with her. It’s a great outlet for me. I kind of prefer writing music like that to structured music. It’s actually some of my favourite stuff that I’ve ever written but the commercial value of it in terms of releasing it isn’t there.

Though Clark was composed largely in isolation, the new record betrays no sense of loneliness or alienation. Instead it brims with a dual sense of warmth and tension with tracks as futuristic and otherworldly as they are human and organic. The single, Winter Linn, oscillates in an ocean of moods over a single refrain that’s warped, re-molded and mutated more than half a dozen times over the course of three minutes, while deep cut, The Grit in the Pearl, pulsates with a steady dancefloor beat and cascading melodies before trailing disintegrating into a flurry of digital distortion.

But nothing is accidental and everything is meticulous, as has seemingly always been the way for Clark, who would work 12 hours a day writing and recording these pieces and considers himself an obsessive in every aspect of his composition.

“Sometimes it’s just certain riffs or things I write, I just can’t keep away from them and they pull me in further and I’m not really aware of it,” he says. “I’ll just be sitting in my studio and a whole day will have gone by and I will have finished a track, but I don’t know if I can articulate what that space was other than playing someone the track, and that’s what’s fascinating about music. If you could describe it, it wouldn’t be very good.”

In the live show, however, a lot more is left up to chance. Clark performs with as little automation as possible, sequencing and reproducing many of his studio sounds in real time, sometimes writing beats or sections two hours before stepping on stage to keep himself on his toes.

“I think it’s about just getting really childishly excited about hearing it  really loud,” he says. “That’s sort of it. Wanting the sound system to be good is a big part of that. I’m terrible for listening to music on headphones and laptop speakers. I’ve just had to grow used to that. I kind of know how to mix because I’ve got this nice pair of headphones that I know inside out but I’ll often just have stuff on my laptop. And I think it’s a good way to listen to music because you don’t – you just listen to songwriting more than production and I think it’s totally valid actually, listening on crappy speakers.

“But live is different because you’re kind of hearing it in Technicolor. And for me the music that works best for that is adrenaline-fuelled dance music.”

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