Photography by Mark Wheelwright
“Gizzusasmile,” I’m told by the man standing next to me. This, it appears, is not a night to be standing aloofly and watching others.
Clark’s headlining performance, supported by a line-up of Mumdance, Helm and Wanda Group, takes place in one night of an impressive calendar of acts coordinated by Beacons Metro, the ongoing metropolitical music festival. Currently signed to Warp Records, Clark cuts a serious figure on stage. Through the dry ice and the lights he looks a little like Ethan Hawke, grizzled and unaffected as he bends over his equipment. In the more up tempo parts of his set, he moves with the physicality of a drummer or pianist, lurching from one end of his set-up to the other.
‘I like coldness in music,’ Clark states in an interview with Wondering Sound. Indeed, Clark’s work is most frequently attributed to the sound of the post-apocalyptic. With a set lasting one hour before the next act takes over, Clark is given a short amount of time to deliver such a promised emotional punch. Yet, Clark is in no rush. The set opens with a sustained series of organ-like chords. I’m instantly reminded of Steven Price’s see-sawing Academy Award winning score for Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. Even amongst the slow synthetic strings, it is difficult to feel safe. The tension breaks when the beat drops and in comes that frenetic, hyper, fiddly techno that so characterises Clark’s sound. The crowd comes alive in this instant, as if relieved of the burden of the sombre opening.
With a prolific career of almost fifteen years, it is refreshing to hear the range of sounds that Clark draws from throughout his set. Distorted female vocals appear and disappear. Some sort of steel drum recurs, sparingly. At moments, I think I can hear a romantic 8-bit melody. Without much sentiment, Clark is prone to overwhelming these lighter moments with mechanical noise. It’s difficult not to read some sort of greater message into these instances, but the genius here is that you’re left not entirely sure whether what you’ve just heard is something that is optimistic or pessimistic. For, no sooner have these lyrical moments been lost, we get a crowd-shaking whumpwhumpwhump which unifies everyone into a fist-pumping dance.