Review Summary: His far more accessible sound upon Iradelphic, even if it signals a safety net approach is worth a listen; you just can’t hold it against him even if it is lacking the hectic edge he exhibited in past outings.
In a perfect world, Chris Clark would always be his daring and unflinching self as he was so gleefully upon Body Riddle and even the more patient in Turning Dragon. The fact is that he is not that artist anymore. Initially, Clark’s aspirations grew from quick attempts to heap flustered bits of synthesizer jargon upon Clarence Park. Afterwards, his release Body Riddle mixed in hard-hitting drums layered in ambient noise that only salivated most, working out marvelously. His latest string of releases – Turning Dragon, Totem Flares, and now Iradelphic are what could be called post-jitteriness Clark. This phase sets aside his randomness - the strangers in the background of madness - to a more refined, buoyant musical electronic. Absolutely, Body Riddle had style, substance, rhythm, all the elements that make up a fantastic idm record, but it was far more voracious in nature. The shifts in mood came at the right time and marked Clark’s first foray into a more polished electronic he had yet to perform. Fast forward six years and the notion remains the same, yet Clark’s instrumentation is far more diverse and immediately more serene than anything previously recorded.
There are still memories that Totems Flare (his 2009 effort) lacked any true originality, and while in this age it is difficult to assume one can achieve this, Totems Flare was a substantially uneven attempt by an artist who has practically defined consistency. It felt horribly paced and rushed. Which is why Iradelphic comes as such a surprise, it’s achingly harmless, yet is unheard of in Clark territory. Perhaps, just maybe, this sweet calm that isn’t brushed over with loud white ambient noises, textured synthesizers moving about on a whim, it eventually becomes an almost novel, euphoric feeling. The moments – from the outset – become foreign in the space that Clark works from. Indeed, it isn’t new, but its mixture of smooth, upbeat electronic waves along with unheard of instrumental components in his Clark’s toolbox is most definitely. Amusingly enough, many of the tracks that envelop within minutes reminds of his Warp friends such as Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, and in particular Bibio. The warm, swirling movements incorporated in Iradelphic are ever-present, unlike previous glitch-hardened records; Clark practically ditches the edge that he abused so well and moves toward a even-keeled downtempo record with haunting aesthetic flares. The glitch and ambiance aspects upon Iradelphic is in dire need, and while he toys with it so scarcely on “Skyward Bruise / Descent”, it lacks the cold shoulder and exciting punchiness that Clark had manifested years back. The iridescent “Tooth Moves” feels oddly familiar (The Flashbulb flashbacks), in an indication that Chris has yet to find his stance on this album, but boldly steps into experimentation, for him, but for others it remains recognizable. Some of the artists mentioned can shed their sound like the colors of a chameleon - Clark is not that kind of artist. Iradelphic is a gamble for him, a new direction for a man so unashamed, as he should be, of his muddled records that deceptively brought harmony in Body Riddle and Turning Dragon.
It seems that even for someone who has yet to delve into such a realm of the genre, Clark can surprise even more. Both “Open” and “Secret”, with once deemed trip-hop goddess Martina Topley-Bird is naturally a divisive tune on Iradelphic, not only is so not Clark, it feels so remarkably and excitingly original for him. Something he must have enjoyed while touring with Bibio in his three years. His label mate has affected him immensely upon this album. This brings me back to the original assertion that it’s quite difficult to appear original for anyone, but for Clark it is as he said just incorporating these sounds within his music:
"…quite a maddening task."
This references his change in sound, to use far more live guitar work, vocals and a more organic development of the sound. This, of course, a complete opposite of his usual cold, abrasive side he has depicted. Layered underneath the natural acoustic chords and warm synthesizers warped around studio vocals, are moments of vintage Clark, but it doesn’t effectively translate like it does on “Ghosted”. A track that evokes what Iradelphic appears to grasp - in its truest and most unfiltered form. While not the least bit endearing, it may just be the first steps of Clark’s journey from the days of yonder of his affinity toward Autechre into another Richard D. James or even a Boards of Canada lookalike. The trilogy “The Pinning” carousals its repetition, in its simplicity, is the main highlight of this album, allowing Clark to mask the distorted background hiss into a pleasant energetic sequence of a united atmosphere, something desperately lacking on Totems Flare. A far cry from the depths that the last album had fell, instead it begins conjuring a mellower mood, abiding to its status as an imaginary closer of the album itself.
It may sound harsh, dare I say crude to say the man is playing it safe, but how many do you know that can justifiably musically relate to such Warp legends? While on different points on the electronic spectrum, Clark manages to find the in-between, only what could be said as his first attempt at his new style. It’s appealing to both new listeners and older fans. It undoubtedly still needs some character for Clark’s sake, easily holding back the spastic moments upon an easy-going ride. For those expecting the hard-nosed approach upon Iradelphic, you’ll be disappointed. His far more accessible sound, even if it signals a safety net approach is worth a listen; you just can’t hold it against him even if it is lacking the hectic edge he exhibited in past outings.