Clark – Body Riddle (2006)
With Body Riddle, Chris Clark makes a unique album and indicates his personal detachment with the emission of his first name from his personal label. Such a move is brave, even pretentious, but luckily for him, “Clark” as we shall so call him is skilled enough in driving electronic beats in synch with beautiful, organic melodic passages to compare to his superior Richard D. James. He is, however, more comparable to the ballsier but inevitably more pretentious Autechre, but as he proves with Body Riddle, you probably can’t really compare any two artists on the Warp label to one another, let alone to anyone else in the music business. Body Riddle is a box of tricks, wrought from forgotten machinery scattered throughout decades, with as much influence from a depression era steel mill as an elderly Mac Book. However, just because an electronic artist is unique does not mean they are good. Being expansive, innovative, or iconoclastic does not mean immediate quality. Clark could easily have overextended his grasp and made atonal insanity, but instead, he opts to scramble the beats, and interestingly enough, to a point where they are recognizably synchronized and hypnotically catchy and no farther. The insanity is still here, but it is controlled. Canyons of jagged sound, sharp skrees, music boxes, and a wealth of other tricks dress up every song, but for the most part, the chords are contemplative and relaxing, if not a bit uneasy at times. But even when he is at his most violent, Clark is compromising. His beats are only backdrops to consistent sonic beauty as seen most clearly on Matthew Unburdened with a very steady, memorable string section. Throughout the album passages are interrupted, but comfortably, making Body Riddle a piece of work that slowly unhinges and opens itself up upon repeated listens. A musical resolve is always present, always obscured, and ultimately just out of reach. Psychological resolve is there however, but slightly difficult to achieve. As they say, watch a chicken, never lays. It’s not fantastic, or innovative, but Body Riddle ends up being one of the most accessible albums that advertises itself as being willfully difficult. This is not a fatal vulnerability, but instead a concealed invitation into the mind of an electronic artist that knows how to deliver the goods. There is order to the madness.