Clark’s reputation has been steadily building from an Aphex Twin wannabe following his debut Clarence Park (Warp, 2001) to being hailed as an electronica innovator after the release of Body Riddle (Warp) this year. Tonight he brought his new live show to London, with live drummer Alvin Ryan to beef up his trademark hard-hitting big beats. It was a powerful and confident performance that showcased his talents for haunting melodies and driving bass.
Taking to the stage almost sheepishly, Clark is not one to draw attention to himself. He immediately kicked off proceedings at the controls of his two pieces of equipment with a slow number (which I cannot now identify) that made use of his ability to build complex layers of off-key beats and dramatic melodies blended by an expert ear. While the harder forms of dance music such as breakcore and gabber have become highly popular in the world of neo-rave for a crazy night of madcap mayhem, Clark’s unique and tender stylings have arguably the same frenzied impact at half the speed. Sure, he will not be hitting 200bpm, but the visceral reaction of clenched fists and joyful nodding of heads hits the spot in dramatic fashion. Adding a skilful live drummer to the mix proved a wise move, providing an organic element to the recorded sound Clark manipulates: the results were suitably impressive.
I cannot recommend seeing him live in 2007 strongly enough.
Body Riddle opener “Herr Barr” was met with a joyous cheer from the crowd, its varied amplified percussion beefed up to the maximum by the real drums sending a extra body shaking shockwave through the crowd at the intimate London venue. Clark injected energy with a version of “Frau Wav (Brief Fling)” form his 2005 EP Throttle Furniture (Warp), using its crowd-pleasing hook to thrust it forward. When the epic synth-laden “Herzog” gave way to the stomping “Ted”, Clark cranked up the tempo and was rewarded with an audience in the palm of his hand. At this point as they both went into improv mode it seemed it could only get better…yet suddenly the show was over. Both returned for a rather limp encore that failed to scale the heights built up over the hour before it.
When I saw Clark perform a sub 30-minute support set in February, my one complaint was that he needed a little longer to flex his musical muscles to the maximum. Tonight, while he did forge another immense performance, I felt a little more improvisation and a longer full-on assault towards the end would make an excellent show nearly perfect. Fingers crossed the live drummer will continue to work with Clark on future performances — I felt there is more potential to explore. As it stands, a seemingly premature end is a minor gripe given the stunning hour that preceded it. Clark continues to be one of the few innovators of electronica — I cannot recommend seeing him live in 2007 strongly enough.