What to do when your brand of hyper-spastic IDM is approaching irrelevancy? Clark has been wrestling with this problem since the fantastic but overwhelming Turning Dragon in 2006. His 2012 answer? A mid-'90s-leaning downtempo record. An odd and unexpected move, but that's essentially what Chris Clark's sixth album tries to be. It's drastically nostalgic—as if he's been bitten by the same hypnagogic bug that seems to be eating away at Planet Mu and Hyperdub. This record basically bleeds sepia, resulting in the restless auteur's most consistent but least engaging album.
Iradelphic is drawn with a clear and confident hand, even when it's coming out all smudged and warped like first single "Com Touch." The problem is that it's just not very interesting. It's nothing we haven't heard before, and it's not doing anything new with the old ideas it reanimates. When the album gets percussive, as on "Tooth Moves" or the vibrant "The Pining" trilogy, it feels hopelessly dated, chopping up drum breaks and live samples into tepid acid jazz—just replace the svelte cocktails with something a little more hallucinogenic and you've got the idea. As if to drive home the retro downtempo vibe of this stuff, Clark pulls in ex-Tricky partner Martina-Topley Bird for several vocal appearances. Her distinctly laconic drawl (perfectly suited to Iradelphic, admittedly) is the album's tipping point into inanity, where the tribute becomes imitation.
When he's not making trip-hop or acid jazz, he's taking samples of live instruments—like guitars that flicker and jump like a crackling fire on "Henderson Wrench"—and dousing them with aural Instagram filters. The result, much like the trendy picture-sharing app, is interesting for a few seconds until the gimmick wears off, when listeners are left scratching their heads wondering what exactly Clark is trying to accomplish here.
There's no denying that Iradelphic is Clark's most accessible and friendly work in ages. But in simplifying his nervy OCD into something more digestible, he smoothes his usually deformed irregularities into cookie-cutter shapes that slot far too nicely into predictable templates. It feels like Clark has been grasping at straws the past few years trying to find a comfortable new foothold—by all accounts, last record Totems Flare was a mess, but at least it was trying—and I guess he succeeded. Unfortunately, comfort is boring.
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Tracklist: Clark - Iradelphic 01. Henderson Wrench
02. Com Touch
03. Tooth Moves
04. Skyward Bruise/Descent
08. Black Stone
09. The Pining pt1
10. The Pining pt2
11. The Pining pt3
12. Broken Kite Footage