Where Is This Headed?

It's obviously not a coincidence that Chris Clark had changed his official musician name to a shortened Clark with the release of his EP Throttle Furniture. The change would immediately signal a transformation in his direction as his more moderate electronic cuts mixed with ambient backgrounds almost completely disappeared. With the release of his third album Body Riddle and his fourth Turning Dragon the man knew what he wanted - an unprovoked, hard-hitting electronic sequences with small snippets of his past albums. Ultimately Turning Dragon would call for the changing of the guard as it was nothing like Clark had ever released; clearly more straightforward in its approach, but not in its varying complexity. Interestingly enough it was easy to understand why the man who started as a more of an ambient/electronic artists a la Tim Hecker and Aphex Twin, to a idm/breakbeat junkie would be despised by some who are split on either side. If his debut Clarence Park said Clark would meander off in many directions then Totems Flare really is a replica of that album. Nothing new or relatively barbaric in approach it would seem that Clark has hit a pitfall in his young musical career.

Although the man who carries the original intention of Warp Records' heyday it soon becomes clear on Totem's Flare that he's either lost memory of his past dealings or just plain bored. This may feel like a complaint or a tirade to some, but in all honesty I think Clark's "trilogy" of hard-nosed breakbeats, short ambient sequences, techno-theme and relentless idm was thrown into a pot on pure happenstance. Clearly the more refined albeit still chaotic Body Riddle and Turning Dragon feel refreshing if not bearable compared to the third in the series of his new approach. Totems Flare feels like a regression of sorts, instead of expanding or sticking to a consistent sound, it sounds more like a huge mess. His previous albums, despite not sounding anything like his releases post-2006 carried the balance extremely well. Clarence Park's playful nature and distorted lulls were amazingly similar to Aphex Twin their connotations, easily pleasurable and increasingly likeable, but that was his debut made nearly 9 years ago. Unfortunately when you get a taste of this in Totems Flare it feels like betrayal or better yet downright wrong, you asking yourself what the hell is this doing here? The flow of Clark's last release is purely disruptive, was that his intent? I'm not exactly sure, but it sure doesn't help this album's cause.

It may sound easy to pummel Clark's latest effort, but the man has been quite progressive in his sound if not dynamic. His uproarious sequences that build to an explosion of energy that induces huge moments of dancing may be the reason why Totems Flare seems so misplaced. The sometimes odd, slow moving sequences have been non-existent in his last few efforts. I didn't think this would be possible, but it's as if the general feeling is I'm growing out of this direction. Despite its progressive nature, the sequences that develop within the music are extremely aggravating. The type of music on Totems Flare can only be described in a matter of words and short explanations: sequence switching (pertaining towards the extremely quick transitions from one sound to another completely disrupting any type of flow), misplaced (much of Totems Flare doesn't not flow as it should), disappointing (despite having some fantastic material hidden in the depths of a few songs such as the keyboard transition 3:37 in "Outside Plume" and the serene upbringing of "Growls Garden" most of Totems Flare rides through some huge speed bumps).

Generally the old adage goes if it isn't broke don't fix it and Clark seems to have taken that to heart. If not for a few subtle differences in sampling and even quick sequences that sometimes show absolutely no consistencies this could feel like a re-hash of Body Riddle and Turning Dragon, yet not nearly as smooth in transition or excellent. At the end of the day Totems Flare truly had some great potential, but the myriad number of problems hold it back.

Grade: C-

Download: V0(VBR)


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