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Clark – Playground In A Lake

Clark – Playground In A Lake

Clark’s latest collection is an imagined soundtrack to mankinds’ extinction event – a global flood resulting from climate change neglect. Playground In A Lake may be a mythologised ‘last man standing’ fable, the stuff perhaps of a Twilight Zone episode but tonally it is much darker, more in line with the nihilism of The Road.

Chris Clark forged his reputation as an electronica/IDM artist on the legendary WARP label. In recent years Clark has turned more toward neoclassical, soundtracking a Sky Series (The Last Panthers) and reinterpreting Max Richter. Released on the renowned classical label Deutsche Grammophon, Playground In A Lake feels like the natural culmination of both these strands. The titular ‘lake’ of course is our planet Earth, here devastated by polar melting. Imagine inheriting such a place – huge bodies of water that cover our lost civilisations, cities, memories – waters that could themselves be toxic or radioactive – nowhere to go and no one with whom to share – a deadly playground whose endless possibilities remain submerged, rendered impossibilities, just as you yourself would be rendered prisoner in this most widescreen of vistas.

I’m afraid the word ‘reflective’ is inadequate when describing Playground In A Lake. Whilst many ambient, IDM releases are exactly this, Playground is more confrontational. We listeners are forced to examine our negligence, to own it and accept the consequences. Like a highest stakes Who Wants To Be A Millionaire we gambled our planet and we lost, letting not only ourselves but future generations down. This betrayal of innocence is personified in the form of 12-year-old chorister, Nathaniel Timoney who adds his cherubic vocals to many pieces on the album.

I found my first playthrough to be a profoundly moving experience. Clarks compositions, though beautiful can often evoke a sense of impending dread. Whilst never ‘horrifying’ as such Clark is gifted enough to keep us in this state of heightened tension for prolonged periods of time. This is far more effective – the aural equivalent of a psychological horror vs jump scare, popcorn fare. In which case, I think I just listened to Kill List and yet, didn’t I intimate that this was an elegant neoclassical release akin to Max Richter? So it is, and I’d add Michael Nyman, Tim Hecker and possibly Górecki too. However there are also industrial tendencies and avant garde flourishes that recall Scott Walkers Tilt or The Drift. In fact this is a distinctly Clark record. He never betrays his electronica roots. E.g. ‘Earth Systems’ feels right out of the n5MD playbook, its rumbling unknowable drone adding to the albums sense of (self?) judgement.

Whilst always on the lookout for that ‘next’ album I might just have stumbled across the last album you, I or anyone will need. Playground In A Lake will be too heavy for some. I found it astonishing.

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