“It’s been an interesting few days,” Chris Clark admits wearily, by way of introduction. “I’m frazzled. I’ve just got back from Australia and I’ve been making music as soon as I got back. I’ve been making really intense rave music.”
Almost immediately, I get the feeling I’m conversing with an artist that resembles something of a workaholic, mind racing, erratic hands always fashioning and unravelling the most unpredictable of new sounds. “I got back to an empty flat but I got really buzzy with jetlag, woke up at half one this morning, made music till twelve and had six interviews. And you’ve caught me at the tail end of it.”
To be honest, you wouldn’t know it. Clark appears refreshingly laid back as he outlines his relentless creative process on the road: “I think it’s sort of a defence mechanism to make myself feel at home, a weird territorial thing, like I just need to start making music wherever I am”, yet he bristles with excitement at the mention of his eighth album, Death Peak. His vibrancy is infectious.
“Every record is different, but this album was very much like ‘Right, I’m going to write an album now. I’m going to call it Death Peak. I’m going to give myself six months to do it. It’s going to have this many tracks and this is going to be the artwork.’ It was super clear and something came over me, for sure.”
Despite its punishing urgency, Clark still describes Death Peak as a thoroughly rewarding process. “Writing the album was really fun, a weirdly charged experience. I’m pleased with the music on it and feel like I’ve improved on previous releases. It’s terrible though, because as soon as you release new music, you’re constantly battling with yourself. You’ve got to admit whether something is as good as your last release or at least different because, if not, you’ve got to cut those tracks out.”
With that in mind, there’s very little on the album that outstays its welcome. Perhaps Clark’s biggest strength is knowing when to peel contrasting textures apart, precisely flip tracks on their head and crack their delicate skulls, Death Peak resembling what you might find inside, grisly or otherwise, like on ‘Catastrophe’s sublime use of a children’s choir that borders on both unnerving and euphoric. “That’s generally what takes me quite a while, the point where the track switches. It’s the holy point of the song and sounds quite over the top. I spend ages on the transitions and the actual tracks don’t tend to take much time at all. If you’re trying to say a lot, everything hinges on the new chapter and I’m well aware of that. Hours and hours on two seconds, but then the rest of it is written in an hour.”
In addition to the choir, Clark’s eighth album is littered with distorted and deformed vocals, deliciously bent out of shape, perhaps more so than ever. “I got to a point where I didn’t know what was what anymore and that was a really weird, trippy, quite psychedelic experience, almost like when you take mushrooms. You don’t know where the boundary is or where you start and end. It was sort of like that with the vocals: I was listening back and thinking ‘fuck, is that a vocal? Or a synth?’ I didn’t know which it was and I like that, it’s really satisfying.”
It’s partly this unpredictability that makes Death Peak one of Clark’s most fulfilling records. Tracks that initially appear pretty and shimmer with fragility often give way to something ferocious beneath the surface. It makes you wonder whether the DJ’s flirtation with conflicting genres has anything to do with it. His enduring affection for grunge bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Slint and Harvey Milk is evident in his aesthetic, however his recent forays into sampling, even as recently as when shaping Death Peak, will surprise many. “I had this set up with these weird EDM synths and I sampled loads of really big EDM people, but completely destroyed them and put their music on tape. If anyone knew the names I’ve sampled…” he teases, “but you’d never know who they are because I’ve completely disguised it and made it pretty intense. I like the idea of turning things my way, somehow.”
Despite melding the most conflicting of sounds with remarkable ease, Clark finds it a little more difficult to define Death Peak. “I don’t really know what the album is, to be honest. It’s kind of like a techno death metal album, with choral elements.” He laughs, before admitting “what a weird record.” Weird, sure, but it’s a record that redefines why Clark is so significant to us all.