LIVE REVIEW: Clark – Death Peak Live
We checked out Clark's latest live show and it blew our tiny minds into a million shards, then we tried to write down what happened.
Warp records are now a kind of olympic standard in electronic music, and Clark is kind of like their Theseus, challenging boundaries and moving from city to city, earning his right to place his name next to Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and The Black Dog. Alright, I’ll admit that the metaphor is a bit flimsy, but it serves the purpose.
Clark came to Warp in the early 2000s, and since then he’s become one of their most recognised names, which is no mean feat. Warp has changed so much over the decades that consistent mainstays are rare, but he’s certainly one of them, largely because even in the dead centre of the kaleidoscopic supernova that electronic music has become, he’s continued to innovate from single to album to live show.
Even by his lofty standards, Death Peak is distinct. It’s perhaps more accessible than albums like Body Riddle, Totems Flare or even Iradelphic, which he previously described as his most heartfelt. Death Peak behaves like a shark – it speeds up, it slows down, occasionally it strikes, but it never stops, it seems incapable. Given Clark’s MO at live shows – trying to do so many things at once that he resembles some kind of deranged, meth-addicted daddy long legs – the live rendition of this album was always going to be something to behold.
Brixton Electric is becoming something of a depth-centre in London for electronic music. From shoegaze to drum and bass to techno, every avenue is covered and if an artist has a a particularly dazzling show in the works, it’s the safest bet in South London to see it. So it was that I found myself there again to experience Death Peak live, and boy oh boy did it deliver.
Even without any kind of audio-visual aid, Clark’s live shows impress. It would be so easy to sit back, let the recorded material blend with the awesome acoustics of the venue, tweaking and manipulating only where necessary. That’s nowhere near enough for Chris Clark. He’s constantly active, shifting, twiddling, pitching and punching. The tracks bear only the vaguest resemblance to their recorded counterparts, on a live stage he transforms them into something so much deeper, so much more haunting.
I wasn’t entire sure what to expect from the crowd, techno nights are always kind of a wild card for that but once Clark got onto the stage (preceded by Monkeytown darling Gajek and XL’s Overmono) there was no getting away from the fact that he still has a huge homegrown following. The audience rippled almost from the beginning of his set to the end, and he made them work for it, switching up and changing the rhythm so frequently that big chunks of the crowd would be caught off guard. From my vantage up on the balcony, it was kind of fascinating.
This wasn’t like any other live show Clark has ever toured, however. Translating the thoughts and feelings of an electronic album to any kind of visual context is, to say the least, challenging. To turn it into a kind of bizarre interpretive dance performance in something else entirely.
To do this, Clark linked back up with dance choreographer Melanie Lane, and blocked out his set to include two key ingredients – a set of flickering, monolithic light columns and two dancers – Kiani Del Valle and Sophia Ndaba. The light installation was done by Flat-E, a London-based company who’ve also set up shows for the likes of Dusky, Jon Hopkins and LFO, and the costumes were designed by Lane herself. Together with the amazing chemistry between Ndaba and Del Valle (who’s artist collaboration list would make even Damon Albarn turn green), the result is… enthralling.
Whether they’re writhing like phantoms beneath iridescent sheets or matching the beat whilst streaks of J-horror-esque black hair flail in front of their obscure faces, the duo brought something organic, unsettling and almost biomechanical to the show that was hard to look away from. It wouldn’t have worked anywhere near as well paired with the work of any other electronic musician, and even going back now and revisiting the album, it’s hard not to see the performance imprinted on my mind’s eye.
Clark has been signed to Warp since he was a teenager, and it’s tempting to try and map his journey into adulthood and beyond through his releases, but they’re all so distinct it’s like they were all produced by different variants of him. It’s well worth getting acquainted with this one.
Death Peak is available for download and stream now, and the show is still touring. See if it’s happening near you.