A Warehouse Party for the World’s End
After nearly two years of stumbling through the broken mountain crags and ash-caked landscape, a deep thrum begins to emit from the earth. A warehouse stands alone in the distance, an obtrusive steel shrine with pulsating light and strange noises stands out against the colorless world. The door is open and the music is loud, the remnants of humanity dance carelessly, a heaping mass of sweat soaked bodies, and a lone DJ stands at center stage, the very same who stood at the center of the world’s collapse all those years ago. Death Peak is the apology for the apocalypse, or at least a salve or opiate to tide the world over until we all pass in cold silence.
Apocalyptic imagery is no foreign territory to Clark. On his self-titled album released back in 2014, he created a cold ashen hellscape that the earth had become. His penchant for atmospheric rave music has made him the “DJ of the Apocalypse,” a title attributed to him for his harsh synths, which occasionally brush elbows with contemporary Ben Frost, and his intense studies of atmosphere that liken him more to Tim Hecker. On Death Peak, Clark takes these influences and forces them into a much more listener-friendly record that almost feels like an apology for the havoc wreaked by his self-titled album. Songs like “Butterfly Prowler” and “Peak Magnetic” are light and airy but still possess his heavy driving sonic palate — most notably, his powerful bass notes and high-pitched synth melodies that make the songs feel almost festival-ready. The main standout amongst the lighter tracks is “Catastrophe Anthem,” which blends his harsher style with a choral arrangement clearly inspired by Tim Hecker’s 2016 experiment in vocal work, Love Streams. The song begins with harsh static drones pulled straight from By the Throat and combines them with twinkling strings and achingly beautiful choral arrangements. It reaches an incredible and satisfying climax around the four-minute mark that is reminiscent of many a post-rock song, and serves as a strong case for Clark as one of the foremost electronic musicians of this era.
Despite the general shift towards a more listenable and readily approachable project, Death Peak at its harshest far exceeds Clark in abrasiveness. Two of the more notable tracks on the album, “Hoova” and “Un U.K.,” both are far more violent and crushing than anything found on Clark. “Hoova” is perhaps closest to “Sodium Trimmers” as both songs share a similar driving beat and industrial warehouse sonic aesthetic. The drums give way to sharp hi-hats and piercing synth lines that shoot through the listener’s ear drums with minimal resistance; and for any fan of harsher music this track is sure to enter into a strong and consistent rotation. “Un U.K.,” on the other hand, is rather unlike anything from Clark and would likely be more in line with Ben Frost or even Roly Porter, the sonic pallet is wickedly harsh and almost entirely comprised of static bursts towards the front and middle once the early choral section fades from the intro. This is not entirely unfamiliar territory for Clark and he shows his skill on the darker side of electronic music quite masterfully, easily hanging with the aforementioned greats of the genre. This balance between intense harshness and danceability stands out as a Clark trademark and goes a long way to creating a truly cohesive project.
Death Peak is one of the more straightforward Clark albums released in recent years. It is not so heady as his self-titled work, which often seemed to tell a story even on its shortest tracks; yet it is not as disjointed as the remix compilation Feast / Beast. Death Peak is far less cinematic. (Though, being a Clark album, it still has its fair share of those moments.) Despite the lack of a supposed narrative, the album does seem to present itself as a bandage for Clark, even if it does rip it off in the final track. The total package of listenability and abrasiveness leads to a truly interesting listen that, given time, will undoubtedly grow in stature and cement itself as a favorite for any listener willing to brave the tumultuous journey.