Totems Flare

If it’s to be called IDM (back! Back, devil’s acronym!) let the I stand for incognizant. As in: it’s dance music, yes, but not that kind expressly engineered for the shitfaced masses. Clark does not have that exacting, scientific quality to his songs, wherein the treble wanes to a mumble, the drums fall off, and everyone tenses for that big moment when it all comes back… BUT LOUDER! and the Ministry of Sound come running over with and flowers/tears of joy. Nope. It’s not like that.

As to what Chris Clark does do, well, Totems Flare (and, indeed, the bulk of his releases) has that charming quality of sounding much more like self-fulfilment, self-exploration. The opener, ‘Outside Plume’, feels like spying on some private, spiritual moment, like a black-belt who’s training alone. It’s huge, wet with reverb, and the unmelodic synths come spinning out jagged as throwing stars. They sound like trip-ups, missed targets, but they repeat regardless. Every time Clark approaches a Big Techno Moment, he sidesteps it with discord, or a sudden shift from light to dark, tin to crushed steel. The second track, ‘Growl’s Garden’, evolves like this constantly, just barely touching its motif of notes, and it’s a wise choice: though the same sort of chord progression recurs throughout the album, it never gets deadly-repetitive. See, it hits again, here in the wild ride of ‘Rainbow Voodoo’, but fast and hard and thumping, with “I don’t even know if it would even be worth it in the long run / the elastic snags and wooden friendships” scorched and hollered over the top like Kele Okereke buried in hot sand. It could be a club anthem in a heartbeat, but it also has the kind of wandering glee to it of an infant slapping at a sampler; two cleverly isolated species of joy in one. (So, sure, go crazy, that I in IDM can stand for intelligent if you like: but not in the original intended spirit.)

Totems Flare is no perfect album – it has a few lapses in interest, some minutes lost to foggy ambience. But then, electronica, for all its one-hit blogger-darling wonders etc., must be one tricky genre to nail in album form: and Clark does make a valiant stumble towards said perfection with all his little gold-plated imperfections in hand. The final track, ‘Absence’, is simple, echoed guitar notes, whirling round in one haunting riff. It is the fallout of the songs before, and it feels, again, beautifully, illicitly private – but far too alluring to stop us listening in.

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