I want to write something different to the usual shrill "Buy it it will make you better" fare. Something free of the 'Stunning! *****' corporate blandishments that have been born out of the marketing adjective arms race. I can't however promise that it's free of personal gush. It might be more insight than you want. It's not short either.
Short could be:
"Trust me, it's good, get it here."
Short could be:
But short's not for today. So please tune in and ignore that next click for another few minutes. You're not going to find salvation there either.
People publicly wonder why it takes some artists so long to write albums. There are no hard and fast answers. Some folk just take a long time to do anything, even trivial things, like deciding which socks to put on in the morning. Sometimes two of these people end up in a musical partnership and faced with life and death second album decisions, just loop for months. Other people are so solipsistically tight they're not entirely sure if their music even needs to be heard.
With the case in hand and indeed, to be fair, most artists, it was just hard obsessive 10 hours a day nonlinear graft. For three years.
When I heard the first mix of Herr Bar I knew that this was going to be Chris' breakthrough album. 18 months into the process and with an ankle thick pile of Clark CD-Rs forming their own ecosystem in the passenger footwell, I was driving a two hour journey up the A1 from London and listened to that one 3 minute rough mix for about 45 mins. It was the first time the drumming that Chris had been dementedly learning in his Birmingham bedroom for half a year began to click into place. It was just so bright and confident. The effortlessly perky melody so damn hooky. And crucially the production was there, it had 'The Slam'.
So a corner piece of the puzzle had been found and the game was then on to turn over the pieces that couldn't be seen, find the piece that had fallen off the table, decide that one big piece which seemed so surely a fit was actually from another puzzle entirely, cut the tabs of a few pieces to make em fit and in the furious rush to slam in the last few pieces watch a white hot puzzle piece straight from the musical Source be fused into existence. [slaps thigh]
Herzog, ah Herzog. Herzog was a love at first sight. I'm listening to it right now and the sheer embarrassing unbridled joy of that riff still makes me tear up 230 times later. The perfect boldness of the sung aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhoooooooooohhhhhhhhh bit. The analogue knarlyness. That reversing point explosive sound. Naweed 'The Don' Ahmed the mastering engineer really bedded this track down with even bassier swoops.
Frau Wav introduced me to the notion that Chris can really do strings. Initially I mentally labelled it the inspector Morse track and wasn't sure. Stuck on the M6 I found myself looping up the three quarterway change when it all floods back and became certain.
So Ted is all about that kick from heaven. Weeks worth of time, literally weeks, go into a kick like that. And the bounce. How can you not bounce to that. I bounce to Morrisons on that. Grinning like a buffoon.
And Roulette. Roulette is nervously following yer wide eyed edgy mate who's gone a bit darkside. It's so supremely take no prisoners confident. Totally open and loose without anything held back or overplayed, both weaknesses in some of Chris' early material.
Matthew Unburdened had been constructed over the course of several years. It started as quite a pianoey tune, later zippy stabs over the piano ruined it as my ears rejected this newer imposter mix, but of course they were genius and the old mix now sounds dull and lifeless. The gorgeous warm stretched strings start to washover the piano, the piano goes more drifty, time goes gloopy and suspends. Is this bit 120 seconds or hours? Quiet. Piano assertion, slam, hair tingling turbocharged tricked out drumming opens up your spine. Piano shift makes you yelp with delight. Total rewind full volume screw the neighbours epiphany.
Hypwavverwav is an immense and immensely brutal, almost primal track. It's the sound of being born. It's the sound of falling between dimensions. It's six minutes of slow fusion at the centre of a black sun. Grinding tectonic plates. Note - it's not on the album. In a Hound of Baskervilles sense Hypwavverwav not barking became essential. As amazing as the track is it threw the whole thing out of joint. It became a blockage. Chris and I adament it should not move. That it should be understood and appreciated. The last bastion against all that was wrong in the world. Oh yes. But friends disagreed. The album was sounding good but worthy - too worthy. Weighted down by Hypwavverwav. It came off and is now buried in a lead lined containment cell waiting for it's time. It was a turning point and the rest of the record flowed freely into existence after that lesson.
Springtime Epigram was probably the first track written after Empty The Bones of You. Then it was called End Credits and it oozed soundtrack timelessness. It seemed trite to actually position it as the end track - it landed itself as a mood turning central interlude. Dew on the Mouth is the other short interlude piece, formerly misnomered amusingly as Balsall Skunk. Again an early piece, it disappeared from some configurations. However it's piercing pretty melody is the perfect sonic sorbet between the heavier courses of Vengeance Drools and Matthew Unburdened.
As often happens in the middle of writing The Album another 2 albums worth of material was dashed off in a period of especially productive procrastination. Two CD-Rs of tracks and trackettes collectively known as Friday and Thursday appeared. Different flavours of generally banging unusual 'up' tracks with some mong techno thrown in along with perkier electroey stuff. Friday Ginger became Frau Wav (Brief Fling) on the Throttle Furniture 3" CD that preceeded Body Riddle as it's noisy herald. A bag of glowing offcuts that weren't going to fit the album.
Nearly there then, every track a gem, no fat - but the album incomplete. There was a palpable need for more. Chris became interested in all his old material and a completeish collection was pieced together from old minidiscs, tapes, backups and dusty wavs. Night Knuckles stood out almost immediately. Fate had deliberately left it out of Clarence Park for us. An old old track, the hint of MIDI thinness now a perfect foil to denser more recent sounds. If any track proves Clark's melodic dexterity then it's this one. Fast swooping chinking chattering and triumphant patterns recall some bewigged chap with an insane grin in a castle somewhere, banging out ditties on harpsichord.
And it falls into the final track's rise. Final track and last to be delivered The Autumnal Crush is the aforesaid white hot chunk of musical source. It appeared a few weeks before the album was mastered. I don't know whether it was something Chris has been secretly honing up in his sleeve for years, but it was all new to my ears and just totally, instantly, had to be the last track on the album. The best hollow thump of a kick ever? The saddest simple keyed backdrop. The air slicingest hi-hats. The burning anger and sorrow. I've gone and simplified it all with words now. I'll stop.
Greg Eden (10 October 2006)
PS Mega props to Matt Pyke for the inspired artwork. The best covers sound like the music looks and this one does.
Experience Body Riddle as Nightmarish Animated Fairytale on the Microsite by Association Demalfaiteurs
"A truly remarkable album" - Contact Music
"A devestatingly brilliant piece of work" - Gigwise
Drowned in Sound