t seems that you can tell a lot from album cover art. When looking at the Warp Records output it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Boards of Canada, judged solely by their cover art, are going to be some form of ambience. On the Come To Daddy EP Aphex Twin successfully warns us that the title track will be hardcore influenced. Plaid's release Rest Proof Clockwork there is a graffiti filled backdrop that echoes the b-boy influenced breaks of the record. On the debut release of Chris Clark, the cover sends mixed signals. The snow and child in the picture will indicate ambience. Oddly, though, the child has red eyes, so we should begin to expect some hardcore noise, as well. As with any recent Warp Release, the listener much factor in goofy kitsch tinged rave inducing flute pieces (Lord Of The Dance).
It's easy to say that this just another Warp Records release influenced greatly by Aphex Twin with its neatly packaged future design by the hippest design company in England. Unfortunately, it's true. But, of course, that doesn't change the fact that Clark has an obvious knack for melody and beat programming that is inventive enough to engage the listener intently for the full 32 minutes of the record.
The careful analysis of the cover art provided earlier encapsulates the schizophrenic nature of Clarence Park. Taking cues from the older artists at Warp Records Clark clocks in his first album at less than 32 minutes. Amazing that Clark can pack more punch in this amount of time than in the hour long bore that is Squarepusher's Go Plastic release. The album opens with a simple ambient piano piece that recalls Eric Satie in his more complex moments and swiftly drops into the crunched beat intro of "The Dogs." Featured on "The Dogs" is what sounds like a sampled voice moaning through a sheen of distortion, which gives the piece an otherworldly mood, completely destroying the pleasant feeling evoked by the first song on the record. Before you can begin to tire of "The Dogs," it's over. Characteristic of the record, Clark tends to end his songs before they become redundant or annoying with a few notable exceptions. In between the more melodic tracks like "Proper Lofi" and "Lord of the Dance" are simple distorted, yet melodic, pieces that interrupt the flow. That is, until you give into the madness and realize there is no flow in the album.
Lack of flow has come naturally to Warp Artists as a tool to deflect to the fact that they can't produce a cohesive work. With only a few notable exceptions, two of the finest song producers on the Warp label, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, have failed to make a cohesive work in the last few years. This may be their MO, but the sign of a true artist, in my opinion, is to make a piece of art that, at once, remains varied and cohesive at the same time. With this debut album, you can easily see Clark going down a path to releases that will be rated 7.0's, but no higher. Luckily, Chris Clark is only 21 and will soon learn that schizophrenic album flow is not necessarily going to create the most enduring releases. Granted, 90% of all releases will be slated for fun, but personally I expect more out of an artist. Without the idea of thematic development and foreshadowing art would be a useless proposition, only geared towards the accumulation of wealth. Nonetheless, people will appreciate the mastery of form, the obvious talent, and the cute sound bites of "sounds run in my head at all times of the day;" but few listeners will continue to wait around for the maturity of such an artist. This positive review, then, comes with a warning. Cuteness abides only so long and soon you'll be creating records only your mom, label mates, and IDM listers can enjoy.