An air of mournful grandeur—the kind that rolls in after an apocalyptic disaster—blankets the seventh, self-titled LP from Clark. Opening with gothic organs, horns braying low and deep, and what sounds like brittle bones rattling against the wind (or maybe a shaken tampon bin), the first track "Ship is Flooding" sets a distinctly cinematic mood, and it only gets ghoulier from there. "More Beghain than Guggenheim" is how Clark's longtime label, Warp, is describing this release. And of course, Clark's raw, pulverising techno plays nicely with cold steel walls. But there are too many glimpses of pristine beauty hiding in these dark halls of densely layered textures for this album to be pure hedonistic material. So maybe "More Headphones Than Heads Down" would work too.
THUMP: Seven albums in, and finally one that is self-titled. Is this release a declaration of an arrival of sorts?
Chris Clark: A declaration of arrival. I hadn't thought about it like that before, but if you like, yes. Album titles, Album schmitles, that's what I say.
Is the "Linn" in "Winter Linn" a reference to audio equipment company? What's the story behind that track?
It is, but it's sort of a joke too, cause the linn snare that is in that track sounds nothing like an actual Linn snare, it's all been completely manipulated. I'm a manipulative person. It's alright to manipulate music though. No guilty conscience. In fact you can full on murder music and people love it.
The promotional video for Clark looks like a Magritte painting fed through a strobe light, then styled in the vein of a movie trailer. What was the concept behind this distinctive visual look? Can you elaborate on how the album is meant to be experienced as a "cinematic, immersive whole"?
It's nice to feel that music pushes limits. Generally in life it's nice to feel like you reach your limits, like you're up against the total edge of what human consciousness can experience.
For me being able to feel completely inside music, like it's on you, as a palpable, physical weight, is the closest you can feel that edge to be. That's why I love headphone listening—there's no barrier between you and the work. It turns me on the thought that people might listen to my album going for walks, in all different types of situations. I mean I'm a control freak up until the point of finishing the work, and then I'm just totally excited to let go of it and for it to take on it's own life in the minds of my listeners. The idea that it can shape their inner worlds in some new, unique leap of their own imagination is almost unbearably exciting for me. The point is it all becomes interpretation after that point, the subjective world of my audience gives it context.
"More Berghain than Guggenheim" is a tagline that is already sticking and reverberating in the ways people are talking about this release. Is the separation between dancefloor and museum/institutions an important one for you to make?
Not really. I often start beatless tracks with a pulse or metronome in mind, and then just gradually erode that until it becomes pure drone. I also think soundsystems are fantastic devices to explore beatless, freeform.
You recently opened for Massive Attack. How did you build your set for that show and what do you think you'll remember most about that night?
I kind of did the opposite to what I normally do. I kept the intensity down, I didn't want the set to glare, or be overwhelming in anyway at all. I wanted it to glow in the background, to slowly draw people in. It's weird because I didn't play a beat for about 30 minutes, then I dropped something really slow, and it sounded heavy as fuck because of all the build beforehand.
If you could be a in five-person Max Martin-style 90s boyband, who would be in it?
I'd love to be in a band with Lars Von Trier, Michel Houllebec, Scott Walker, Pusher T and Phil Spector
If you could write the soundtrack for a movie by any director, living or dead, who would it be?
Derek Cianfrance, David Lynch, Gaspar Noe, Nicolas Refn and Sofia Coppla.
You said in a recent interview that you sometimes spy on the guy who came up with the term "IDM." If given the chance and opportunities, who else would you like to covertly keep tabs on?
It's hard enough keeping tabs on my own bullshit really. I'm trying to develop an anti-self-bullshitting device. It's like a go-to psychological toolbox that you can turn to in times of crisis, when you're being a dick but can't do anything about it. It's quite hard though.
With regards to other people. Hmm. I'd like the option to change about a bit. Basically anyone with a massive front of being virtuous/never wrong. Where there's a front there is always a back, etc. Surveillance drones on a massive scale, are surely just round the corner, no?
What has been the most transcendent, bizarre, or memorable raving experience you've ever had?
Probably Tribal Gathering in 1995, the one that Orbital and the Prodigy played at, but it was more youthful musical ignorance that allowed me to enjoy it so much. I was only 15, ignorance can sometimes be bliss. There were some amazing free parties around that time as well. It was mainly gabba though, I think I'd find that quite hard going these days. I loved that slow down gabba thing that Soulwax put out recently.
In the spirit of Halloween, what's the most terrifying sound you can think of?
Noises coming out of Deadmau5 mouth whilst filming a threebie. It's never going to be pleasant is it.
Michelle Lhooq is the Features Editor of THUMP - @MichelleLhooq