Last week saw the release of Death Peak, the ninth studio album from electronic music stalwart Clark.
Warp Records' techno king has explored all corners of his genre over around 20 years with the label, and on Death Peak he's somehow managed to make some of his most engaging, refreshing work yet. Death Peak engages the head as music as it makes you want to move - and it's a terrific record full of immense peaks (obviously) and drops.
Below, you can listen to the album alongside Chris Clark's track by track guide to his latest opus.
"I wanted this to sound like a ‘70 [Werner] Herzog film mutated by a gnarly slab of future-bound sound design creeping in at the end, really detailed and layered. It pulls the whole thing apart, corrodes it, I want it to feel like a shock, or a gasp when you inhale too much whatever it is you like inhaling. The children’s choir are just singing a simple interval. It sounds like an induction ritual, they are encircling you, they pull you in."
"The re-iteration of the riff in this feels like the constant hum of your perception as it moves through a changing landscape. The same but different, all the time. It took me about 3 minutes to make the initial improvisation of this, but I really climbed inside it for months after, and wanted to make it a fully immersive composition, with new nooks and crannies revealed on each listen. For a while it was quite hard to hear it as a whole. I micro-tuned each frame of the journey and wanted it to build in momentum continually. It’s a pretty friendly tame track though, for me. It’s like a Trojan horse, a romp through the meadow at the bottom of the Death Peak."
"Almost the tougher sibling to butterfly. Starts off all unburdened happy to the point of being a bit pleased with itself, but then churns into this euphoric white out of peak drop. If I was going to sound crass I’d say it’s like something from Disintegration Loops with a kick over it. It actually originated from an improvisation with tape loops through a desk and about 5439 guitar pedals. I could build a castle out of the end melody drop, I didn’t want it to end. I want it to feel like time lapse footage of a tree pushing through the soil, the sound of growth, child-like optimism with a pinch of aggression too."
"The album stops being all 'I'm a friendly happy guy' at this point. It’s a vital pivot, you feel the mood hinge into something else. Piano section is proper Basic Channel influenced, those 1 chord moody vamp things they do so well. I’ve totally contorted it to fit my ideal though. Some sounds have a snarling, lairy quality that I find quite addictive. It’s confusing because snarling, lairy people aren’t that much fun, generally. "
"We all could use some slap drones in our lives. Like physical manifestations of conscience. They give us a slap when our behaviour is LESS THAN IDEAL. I stole the title from an Iain M. Banks novel that a friend recommended. It sounds proper psychedelic to me. I’d like to release a long version of this drone at some point, there’s a version of it that’s just the drone, and me improvising intoxicated sounding jazz scales over it for about 20 minutes. I wasn’t intoxicated when I played it. I never am when I make music. Music is like my very own slap drone. The improv was nice, abit like Alice Coltrane vs Sunn 0))). but alas not peaky enough for the album."
"Total texture switch up but in same key and same tempo as slap drones, it sounds like 'Slap Drones' grandfather on a rickety old horse in the desert, simultaneously annoyed yet relieved that 'Slap Drones' has finished. Everything interlocks. It reminds me of something from a Sergio Leone film. Harpsichords do it for me, when you take all the treble off and crank them onto tape they have a sadness and intimacy that pianos lack. Taking the treble off and drenching them in tape hiss makes them sound less cutesy, they sound heavy, mournful, big."
"The children I recorded aren’t REALLY children they are ancestor simulations singing to their AI creator. Possibly. ⅓ chance. I reckon I beat Kevin Shields in an OCD competition with the mix on this. I got obsessed with hearing it in contrasting spaces, 1 in the quiet of my studio, and 2 in loud spaces, in the street where you hear all the other sounds bleed in, I wanted that messy chaotic aspect in there, I would listen as quietly as possible in the most noisy city spaces, imagining how to convey something overwhelming, earthy, asymmetrical.
I set myself these impossible targets, I want it to sound corrosive but gentle, generous but brutal, tragic but also almost drunk with joy. There’s this physical quality to the distortion, I want it to protrude from the speakers, like it almost doesn’t belong there, like it’s beyond what the medium can contain. Want want want. Music is quite selfish isn’t it. Just pure focused relentless desire fixed on what you want the music to sound like. Brutal, heheh! I’m a softy really."
"Probably my favourite track. The main riff is a Korg Kronos (the least me synth ever) cranked and repitched and spliced onto a Nagra mono tape machine (the most me machine ever). So you get this fresh blend of slick future bound, warm, crunchy, vintage. It’s hard for me to pin down what the origins of some of these sounds are. I like the cognitive dissonance involved. Brushed/plucked/played/sequenced/futuristic/as old as the hills/a church organ/a synth. Am I taking the piss? Am I weeping and laughing at the same time? I like work that asks questions!"
"So much went into this! I wrote the whole thing in 4 days around Brexit. I was stuck in Melbourne, watching it from a far, stuck in this perpetual loop of shock/incomprehension/sadness/hope/anger. Another one of those where the general structure was nailed/improvised in a few hours, but the post compositional structural refining took weeks.
The drop in this is about 35 EDM tracks time stretched and put through guitar pedals and tape. Plus a multi layered field recording of wasps tuned into diatonic sync with the track. At some point I got bored of human voice and thought fuck it let’s get wasp-core. For me it’s all about inducing a vivid shock, extending the boundary of what can be structurally achieved in a piece of music. I loved making the end bit that’s in 3 different time signatures, with those proper splasks of spring reverb sawtooth waves. So tense. It bristles with aggression but then there is this quite pretty female vocal element on top. That’s a real vocal btw, no sample libraries involved on this record. I persuaded two of my Norwegian friends to sing on the record, gradually going out of phase with each other. An old Reich trick.
When it drops I wanted it to THROB with malignance, yet still somehow sound elegant. Like footage of horrendous, dangerous looking /beautiful natural landscapes. Uninhabitable but you still kind of can’t take your eyes off it. It’s quite an obnoxious/bombastic track, this one. So I knew it needed a contrast. I wanted the ending to dissolve down to this fine, muted point of humility and surrender. It feels like a return to some child-like place of innocence and hope. A folk melody for a broken country."