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Chris Clark
Empty The Bones Of You

Chris Clark is an electronic musician with a soul. On his sophomore album, Empty the Bones of You, the British glitch-meister works with his computers, drum machines, keyboards and God knows what else to compile 50 minutes of the freshest beat-based instrumental music this side of Aphex Twin. But the album is not just an exercise in technical precision, devoid of all emotional resonance. Nearly all of the 14 tracks are gorgeous, pitch-black, glitch-hop elegies, but it's the underlying feeling of hope that unites the record as a whole and puts Clark in the vanguard of his genre.

The grim album cover depicting a silhouetted figure free-falling into a world of war planes and skeleton-headed monsters, along with song titles such as "Holiday as Brutality" and "Farewell Track," are good indications of the near-nihilistic nature of Empty the Bones of You. After 30 seconds of faint blips and static, the obliterating bass of the opening track "Indigo Optimus" begins to pound and syncopated knuckle-crack snare sounds flutter around the giant low tones. The ever-evolving track never repeats itself for more than a few seconds, and ominous ambient washes, metallic feedback and a death-star keyboard loop snake in and out, adding vitality to the wholly machine music.

Barely-there beat-less interludes like the skittering, ambient title track, the spooky piano ballad "Tyre" and the pitch-shifting gurgle of "The Sun Too Slow" give the listener a bit of respite between pummeling drill-drum attacks and add a healthy dynamism to the album.

Although most of the songs clock in at a just-right time of about three and a half minutes, even the six-and-a half-minute mini-epic "Wolf" never becomes annoying, which is even more impressive considering much of it revolves around a noise that sounds like a VCR gobbling up one of your favorite old tapes. The schizophrenic track evolves from an eerie, clinking piano to full-bodied, hard-hitting hip-hop to a sparse, paranoid buzz without sounding forced or contrived.

Yet, underneath all of the ear-piercing titanium tennis-ball sounds and how-low-can-you-go, tooth-loosening bass usually lies a soft, comforting bed of melodic lines and textures. Whether it's the twinkling keyboards on "Early Moss" or the insolated, womb-like melody on "Umbilical Hut," Clark puts a fair amount of serene familiarity into each tune. So while the rhythms send you into a frothing head-bobbing frenzy, the skewered, hidden melodies offer an emotional attachment to many of Empty the Bones of You's best tracks.

One of the best examples of Clark's balance and versatility is "Farewell Track." The song starts of with a mildly aggressive beat composed of in-and-out radio static and a stuttering rolling-pebble beat before it breaks into an oceanic symphony of undulating, awe-inspiring frequencies reminiscent of the dreamy soundscapes of My Bloody Valentine.

Although clearly influenced by electronic pioneers Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada, on Empty the Bones of You, Clark manages to find a fresh sound somewhere between the darkness and the light.

by Ryan Dombal

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