Review of Turning Dragon Album by Chris Clark

Turning Dragon
Album Review

Chris Clark Turning Dragon Album

When Chris Clark, Aphex Twin, Autechre and Squarepusher began releasing music on Sheffield's pioneering label Warp Records in the early 90's, those dark powers that sit in a boardroom somewhere categorising music and making up names for genres decided that 'Intelligent Dance Music', or 'IDM,' would be a fitting moniker for the sounds these young innovators were creating. Aside from the implication that if this was 'Intelligent Dance Music', then all other dance music was stupid, the tag quickly became something of a hindrance, and many of the genre's foremost names dismissed it. Not least because actually trying to get down to this so called 'Intelligent Dance Music' would probably leave one in a heap on the floor in need of a hip replacement, on account of the twisted time signatures and jarring rhythms.

On Turning Dragon, the melodic, whining synths and Boards of Canada-esque beats of Bodyriddle have made way for a harder, more club-based sound. Clark made this record in his apartment in Berlin, and it sounds like it - the lead instrument in this aural assault is the kick drum. After a flurry of samples and sounds of uncertain source, lead track New Year Storm arrives with the familiar thud of a house kick hammering away at around 140bpm in 4/4. Synths and samples, more or less atonal and devoid of melodic structure, arrive to torment the kick. Thus the scene is set for the rest of the record, and there's little deviation from this remit for the ensuing 40 minutes or so. Volcun Veins brings a vocal sample into the mix, uncredited, but suggestive of pre-diet Missy Elliot on her way to the fridge for a midnight snack. Truncation Horn is a chaotic collection of cut up funk samples and processed beats. It is syncopated and random to the point of sounding amateurish; but because this track is from such an accomplished producer, one must put it down to relentless experimentalism.

For me, this album isn't as rewarding as Clark's previous output - it is less emotionally charged and therefore less engaging. However, the production is innovative and the sound highly original (if can you forget Aphex Twin for a moment). It is a bold, determined move from an auteur and a pioneer, and essential listening for devotees of experimental electronic music.

Matthew Jennings

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