Review: ‘Flame Rave EP’ by Clark (for Trebuchet Magazine)
Updated: Jan 13, 2021
At first glance, Clark's 'Flame Rave EP' could be considered as a place-holder release, or as Clark taking his foot off the gas on his, up to now, stellar journey of creative discovery; it contains only two original tracks - one being a relatively light-headed rave workout - and two alternate versions of tracks which already have a home (on the brilliant 'Clark LP', his last major work).
Indeed, if obtuse interpretations are your thing, you may even consider that this EP kind of plays like the diary of a raver; beginning with the epic night out, followed by the nasty come down and finishing with the customary couple of days contemplating why and what next.
But stop. Let's not worry about all that. Let's just listen.
The lead track, 'Silver Sun', kicks things off in an unusually sparky fashion. It is propelled along by fizzing jungle breakbeats and booming bass bombs while filling in the gaps are thick, woozy synth arpeggios and discordant blips and bleeps. Here the ravey beats and cheers invite your body to dance, but even as it does so the mind is tormented by this extra noise which clings to the beat; the kind of noise only Clark makes, reminding that the unexpected is just around the corner.
'To Live and Die In Grantham' sounds as existentially enraged as its title suggests. Coming after the playful Silver Sun, this is far darker; its fidgety techno rhythm express a tension and urgency. It's the sound of being stuck with plenty of energy but nothing to focus it on. At the backend of the track Clark lets loose with a caustic sounding synth riff. At this moment you can picture acid rain falling from a polluted sky onto the harsh monochromatic landscape below, at once burning and cleansing.
'Springtime Linn' offers immediate sympathy to 'Grantham's protagonist. Opening with a laidback heartbeat pulse and a distorted melodic synth line looping gradually out of the mist, it's a soothing minute or so, clearing the thick grey sky of 'Grantham. Cute vocal stabs eventually dot the mix, providing the EP with a rare moment of humanity.
Halfway through ‘Springtime Linn’ (2 minutes 59 seconds in to be exact), and for twenty seconds only, Clark introduces a specific lower register synth line which seems to play with, undermine and defy the main riff all at the same time. It's wonderfully brief, completely understated and one of the most arrestingly beautiful moments on the EP, perfectly summing up Clark's ability to conjure beauty from a palette of dystopian hues. The track ends with another melodic coda, but this one sounds warmer and more innocent.
Clark's music expresses a world precariously balanced, sounding equally on the brink of triumph and disaster; the two often intertwining, dependant on one another. Like with all great music, there is conflict and resolution at play. Something which helps him to achieve this is his ability to create organic sounds with synthetic equipment. This means the music inherits a natural tension; an undeniable sense of a battle going on between nature and technology, or even a world where one is becoming indistinguishable from the other.
'Unfurla Cremated' is probably the best example of this. Opening with a choir of voices versus a chorus of synth chords; an industrial sounding cascade of bass falls over a wall of fuzzy distortion and distant but gloriously hopeful sounding organ tones. Soon an unstable and scattershot synth pattern emerges out of the noise and into the foreground. It slowly drifts upwards and out of sight, out of sound and into the heavens. It's a wonderful moment.
The stellar journey continues.