DEATH PEAK by Clark
Favorite Tracks: “Slap Drones,” “Un U.K.”
Four months in, 2017 has proven to be a pretty dark year. In a world full of uncertainty, art has become one of the few honest escapes humankind has from the undetermined dread that fills our airwaves, newspapers, and social media. On his latest album DEATH PEAK, Warp Records staple Clark doesn’t aim to distract his listeners from the darkness that surrounds them, but instead provides a pummeling soundtrack to the looming consternation that is in the back of the minds of so many. With the possibility of doom looming on the horizon, Clark’s DEATH PEAK is a startlingly relevant, unsettling, and brooding look at the modern age.
The first time I listened to DEATH PEAK was on a flight from Los Angeles to Washington DC, less than 72 hours after the Trump administration dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan. For the first time since Trump’s inauguration in January, I was truly terrified. Listening to DEATH PEAK on a plane flying to the nation’s capital felt like a horror movie. The album sounds like a nuclear explosion, thwacking the brain over and over again with dissonant noises, unorthodox melodies, and disjointed transitions. Though the album triggered an anxiety so bad I began to break a sweat in my pleather airline seat, this apprehension is what Clark aims to invoke.
The album’s 10-minute closing track, “Un U.K.,” proved to be the album’s most unpleasantly provocative moment. Starting with a collage of grating vocal samples that don’t sound like they’re in any uniform key whatsoever, the track alternates between ambient beauty and abusive drum and bass, providing a sonic experience that sounds like Hell itself.
“Slap Drones” also provides a horrifying yet evocative experience. The track starts with percussion that sounds like a cross between a helicopter’s blades and a cut from Aphex Twin. As the track progresses, it becomes increasingly dread-inducing, eventually incorporating an effectively used, but demonically discordant, female vocal sample. By the end of its four-and-a-half minutes, my brain felt like it had been melted by the heat of 1,000 nuclear bombs.
DEATH PEAK does have moments of placidity that offset the brutality. Though these moments are sparse, they are also the heart of the project. Without the more gentle and melodic elements, the album would ultimately just be terrifying white noise with no means of comparison to make the more intense moments speak for themselves.
Though DEATH PEAK is a masterfully constructed work of art, I would be wary of classifying it as a traditionally enjoyable experience. There is an enormous level of precision and expertise in the arrangements, but the sounds and samples used are at times so incredibly unharmonious that it is painful. This pain, however, is the album’s intent. An album titled DEATH PEAK does not sound like an album that pays much mind to pleasantries, and Clark does nothing to dissuade the listener of this assumption.
DEATH PEAK is a headphone album in every aspect. Listeners would be hard pressed to find an appropriate context to fully experience DEATH PEAK with others present. The horror the album brings to life is too accurate and relevant to be shared with others. DEATH PEAK is the sound of our collective subconscious in a year where our own government seeks to strip us of our autonomy. Because of this, the only way to experience the album is in solitude, with complete acknowledgment of the fear that we as humans living in the modern age do everything to distract ourselves from.
DEATH PEAK is not for the faint of heart. It is not for those of us who are uncomfortable with an honest brutality, and it is the opposite of entertainment. However, the album is a startlingly candid piece of art. For listeners comfortable accepting that the apocalypse could happen at any moment, DEATH PEAK is a work that should not be overlooked.