Search The Line of Best Fit
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Clark embarks an ambitious and thought provoking adventure targeted at global warming

"Playground in a Lake"

Release date: 26 March 2021
Clark Playground in a Lake
16 April 2021, 11:38 Written by Ray Honeybourne
Known mainly for his electronica on the Warp label, Christopher Stephen Clark (aka Clark) has delivered a new album that is something of a departure for him and for the classical label Deutsche Grammophon. Not perhaps a complete surprise, though. DG has issued some recent work by artists such as Max Richter, testifying to its willingness to present music that breaks with the classical tradition. Clark, too, has lately explored new (for him) territory through his dark soundtrack to The Last Panthers Sky Atlantic drama series.

Climate change is this album’s theme, and the cello piece “Lovelock” is a suitably sombre opener. Yet the record is more than a threnody. The pizzicato in the following “Lambent Flame” carries a jaunty track through an increasing pace conveying real urgency, prior to the shift into the sepulchral beauty of keyboard-based “Citrus”, and then the Glass-like insistent rhythms of “Forever Chemicals” with its suggestions of tension between instruments, characteristic of some of the finest classical chamber work, before the vocal reconciliation effected by lyrics that note “so much to lose … the sky is endless.”

At times, the sonic variety militates against a coherent sense of unity, as some awkward synthetic vocals tend to deflect the importance of human responsibility through an artificial expression of “all we are left with are condolences” which is more bathos than tragedy, and the stark funereal rhythm of “Suspension Reservoir” promises more than is delivered.

At its best, though, as in the frightening “Earth Systems”, with its echoes of Blade Runner neo-noir atmospherics, the record meets the challenge of its deadly serious theme, and Clark’s composition and arrangement abilities are clear. Overall, this is an ambitious project that, despite occasional unevenness, is a commendably successful venture and is certainly never less than thought-provoking.

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