Chris Clark at Ctrl. with Ballers Social
Producer Chris Clark tells Colin McKean about his new, darker techno direction as he showcases his new album Turning Dragon
Since the release of his debut album Clarence Park on Warp Records in 2001 Chris Clark has occupied a position at the darker end of the electronica spectrum and subsequent releases Ceramics is the Bomb and Empty the Bones of You consolidated his position as a talented addition to the label’s roster. In 2006 Clark (enigmatically dispensing with his Christian name) released the staggering Body Riddle. This breathtaking album combined extraordinary rhythmic dexterity with an emotional articulacy rare in electronic music.
While Body Riddle’s startling, splintered beats revealed that Clark had become a virtuoso producer, it was the album’s compelling textures and melodies that confirmed his consummate musicianship. ‘Body Riddle took a long time to write because it involved me learning how to play drums and working out how to record them so I really liked the sound,’ explains Clark. ‘That’s why it was quite a milestone album for me, because it involved a lot of learning. I think there are certain ways of recording that just sound so beautiful. If you produce a guitar in a certain way then it can sound like a synthesizer, it can sound electronic. It works the other way too. I think I’ve been doing it for so long now that there’s become a sort of fluidity between the real and the artificial that has opened up a lot of possibilities.’
The dynamics of Clark’s music suggest that he takes inspiration from a diverse and eclectic range of sources. The groaning chord progressions of such tracks as ‘Frau Wav’ and ‘The Autumnal Crush’ are reminiscent of post-rock bands like Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor! while the percussive, twinkling of ‘Night Knuckles’ sounds like an LFO track played on glockenspiels. When asked about the music that has influenced him, Clark says: ‘At school I was into thrash metal, grunge, hip hop, classical and rave all at the same time. I suppose in a way all the stuff I’ve released is trying to bring that all together. I like to think there’s a controlled, and hopefully observed, schizophrenia about my music.’
Clark moved to Berlin last year and began assembling material for his eagerly anticipated new album Turning Dragon. Online previews suggest a significant change in musical direction. The lush, spacious ambience of Clark’s last album has been largely replaced by petulant rave and urgent techno. ‘The record is very much live orientated. It’s a sort of “play it loud in a club” record,’ he says.
While Turning Dragon sounds radically different to its predecessor, Clark is keen to point out that he has continued to refine and improve upon his meticulous production skills: ‘There’s a lot of detail there, I hope there’s enough detail for it to work domestically as well.’ When asked whether Turning Dragon has been influenced by the ongoing renaissance of techno in Berlin, he says: ‘I actually wrote a lot of the album in England. The time I’ve been in Berlin I’ve been shamefully hermetic, really just going out to eat the occasional bockwurst,’ he laughs.
Clark plays at Ctrl. with Ballers Social at The Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Fri 8 Feb.