Picture by Eva Vermandel
British musician and producer Clark has announced the release of a new album called Playground In A Lake which will be out oN March 26th via Deutsche Grammophon. It was recorded with string ensembles in Budapest and Berlin, featuring Oliver Coates on cello, Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear on clarinet, Manchester Collective’s Rakhi Singh on violin, AFRODEUTSCHE and Kieran Brunt on backing vocals, 130701 signee Yair Elazar Glotman on contrabass and 12 year old choir boy Nathaniel Timoney, whose vocal recordings were directed via Zoom during lockdown.
Check the first excerpt “Small”.
According to the press release, with this new album, he broadens horizons and tries new things, with profound results. An intriguingly suggestive title, esoteric concept(s) and disparately-unusual-but-
With its orchestral tropes and release on Deutsche Grammophon, this new LP may seem a departure to the casual observer, but is in fact a more illuminated development of clues from past releases. Seeds planted in ‘Kiri Variations’ bucolic-noir, the piano vignettes from ‘Clarence Park’, the folky wonder of ‘Iradelphic’, the strings on ‘Body Riddle’ and his skewed symphonic rework of Max Richter’s ‘Path 5’ have all grown in prominence and vivid detail.
“I’ve always wanted to record strings, but feel there’s this baggage with classical music. Even though I’ve taught myself how to read and write sheet music, I’m not putting that genre, or any other genre on a silver platter. I’m not from an institutionalised contingent who deem a narrow range of instruments ‘the real stuff’ and everything else worthless commercial pop. I take what I admire from that world and then move on. I’m just using it as another colour.
So, I started thinking about my favourite kind of string arrangements, like Scott Walker records, where they exist amongst contrasting elements. Then I started to approach the album from a dark folk place, also with this heavy 70s synth style. Then came the improvisation of musique concrète, and some of my favourite modern classical and sound design obsessions, and then it clicked”, proclaims Clark.
Although not sounding obviously similar, influences lurk in fibre and foundation on a subconscious, behind-the-scenes level. Bernards Herrmann and Parmegiani, Popul Vuh, Ian Curtis and Dungen all haunt the longplayer in spirit.
More pronounced than the influence of other musicians though, are two philosophical tomes: Eugene Thacker’s exploration into pessimism, existence and extinction ‘Infinite Resignation’ and Ernest Becker’s ‘Denial Of Death’, which discusses “the potency and feeling of immortality that symbols / art / music give us, and the mortal reality of our bodies in entropy”, explains Clark.
“What is ‘Playground In A Lake’? Broadly a story about real climate change, but told in mythological terms. It’s about the last human on earth, the betrayal of an innocent child and becoming a grown-up; growing a shell over our lost young selves. It’s the playground we bury and a drowned planet; an extinction myth” states Clark, adding:
“It can be many things: the nuclear fallout covered by a toxic flood, a buried utopia, or buried memories. Buried creative tools and writers block – you have to dive deep to get to the good stuff. The lake is still and serene – so beautiful you want to swim across it and yes, it’s calm on one level, but sinister on another. There’s a seductive numbness to it. A deathly placid chilI.”
With climate crisis looming large, PIAL carries the weight of the world, but rather than hopeless lamentation, it turns the impending doom into captivating sounds. Dark engrossing scenes are heavy with dread, rich in malevolent atmosphere and as gripping as horror fables. However, at points it also radiates a strangely warm, afflicted type of tranquillity: “It’s about sublimating disturbing scenarios through aesthetics. It’s music through various stages of controlled degeneration. I was aiming for decay made beautiful, so you can experience the abject without having to actually experience it”, pledges Clark.