Track By Track: Clark – Kiri Variations
Time and time again Warp affiliate Clark has proven his ability to flip the script, bringing something fresh to each of his releases. His new LP, Kiri Variations is no different. Alluring and hypnotic, each composition is beautiful in its simplicity bringing together mysterious, morbid pieces and highly original curveballs.
Some of the music on the album was originally composed as a soundtrack for BAFTA nominated TV series Kiri, that incarnation then developed into a full album using many productions that didn't make the cut for the show. Self-released on his own Throttle Records, over 14 tracks Clark employs piano, harpsichord, electronics and his voice; his desired outcome being that listeners will absorb his creations in the way they would a set of short stories…
"I want people to listen to this in the same way they would read a set of Roald Dahl short stories; bitter-sweet tales with hooks and teeth and unexpected macabre twists. Proper Witch vibes."
Here he guides is through the album track by track…
This track feels like curating icicles to melt in a certain pleasing configuration. A dog is gulping up the remains. That’s me. Singing.
Simple Homecoming Loop
I had this dictaphone piano loop for years. But it never worked with strings until I got Mr Coates to play it. It took me about four minutes to write 98% of this, and then I spent about four months on that middle synth part the lasts less than 15 seconds, It took about 40 mixes to get it right. I love it now, it needed to sound like this perfect beam of sunshine breaking onto the face of a mountain. It didn’t connect for many attempts though. Then I finally nailed it and now I’m happy with the weather. It feels like returning home. I remember taking the train back home at Christmas when I was at uni like 654 years ago and having this real melancholy feeling but happy still.
I love a boring track title me. But I do love benches. Public places that witness brief moments of togetherness, many lives in transit. The drone at the end swallows everything up. It’s quite care free until that point, then the weather catches you out. You can’t choose your moods.
I find this track hilarious and moving and it’s got a sort of DJ Hype style jungle wub drop at the end. It would be shit if the recording wasn’t so appealing. I just love the colour of it. And how out of tune it is. It’s in about 4 keys at once but not in a clever way. More in a childish gleeful way. I can hardly claim it’s a composition of Shostakovich levels of complexity but we can save those for later.
I had this as a piano loop on tape and it jammed out for about 40 mins. But it’s a bit indulgent in that form. I wanted to make it concise, intentional. I do love repetitive loop music, especially on magic mushrooms. But it feels a bit background-y and non-committal sometimes. Coffin Knocker…It’s like kids knocking on their ancestors coffins, ya know? Could make a David Guetta style trance hit with these titles.
It feels like a hex, this piece of music. I’ve no rational explanation for why I sang those vocals. Singing “Ah-ah-ho” into a mic out of key. But it hypnotised me, somehow. I tried to re-do and embellish them it didn’t work, it felt contrived. So I left it raw. It’s like scrambled witch music. I enjoy how ruthless the punctuation is. It’s clipped, declarative. I tried to get a scale out of a whole tone on the piano too. Lots of fun. I usually get to about 6-8 notes in one and then get bored. Of course you can go further but come on let’s not be too clever clogs about this stuff. I think aesthetics are all about a kind of tough minded intentional flippancy. It’s more what you can’t be arsed to care about then what you choose to carefully add. That’s where the thumbprint of someone’s identity can be found. Possibly.
Yarraville Bird Phone
This track is in absolute pieces what a mess I love it. Sometimes I make music and go “oh that is sensible and well put together and professional” and I listen to it twice. Then I make a collage like this and listen on repeat again and again. And then think fuck it just release as is, feels more honest. You also get more original structures like this. 08 Primary Pluck I wanted this cello to sound like some of the synths on Totems Flare and Death Peak. This track sounds quite anguished and sad to me now, but I was loving it at the time. I found the distortion on the cello plucks quite addictive. I wonder if people who write relentlessly happy chilled music are quietly seething inside. I’m generally just over the moon to be writing this stuff, even if the tone is dark.
Flask / Abyss Stasis
Ah what a relief! Not everything has to change all the fucking time every minute of the day does it??? DOES IT?
This was a really nice moment to compose for in the show, I was doing a load of improv on the piano, quite complicated indulgent 10 finger poly chords. It got a bit overwhelming and felt disingenuous though. And then this simple voiced progression came out. It was such a relief, felt so nourishing and pure. Quite often this is the way. Biting off much more than you can chew, uncensored play time, learning learning learning. Then reducing things to bare essentials, creating the antidote, dialling it down, simplifying the form and finally feeling happy enough to release it into the world.
I’ve already gone on about this track. I do enjoy listening to it a lot but I’m struggling to find the words. A famous now sadly no longer with us actor once said to me “what artists say about their own work is akin to the the grunt tennis players make after they serve”. Ie ultimately completely meaningless. What remains is the substance of the thing itself. I just love that. I am trying to grunt elegantly though, look I’m trying, alright! 😀
I couldn’t resist putting this on the album. It’s like something I would have written when I was 20 but I added a bit of Spanish guitar, partly cause on paper guitar would be a jarring texture to add to this but c’mon admit it! It just works 😀 intuition all the way I wanted it to be blissful, it’s like fragmented archival footage of peak rave moments I can’t quite remember – I block out the memory of the kick drums as they are ultimately quite stressful. In memory form anyway. If I whipped out a drum machine now I would still probably get turned on but in my memory they are crumbly, wispy things. The fog of the euphoria still hangs heavy though.
The viola and piano in this was recorded in one take in a nice room. I wanted the viola to sound pitched down, it’s not but I asked Nora (the viola player) to play it as slowly and luxuriously as she could, it almost sounds like a wind instrument. I love that blur you can get between acoustic instruments.
Again completely out of tune and intentionally reduced to its bare minimum. I don’t know why I find this piece so mournful. There is a finality about it, it sounds like a surrender. But it’s sung by young kids. Something dissonant and sad about that.