In an interview published around the time of his 2014 self-titled album, U.K. producer Chris Clark talked about his interest in art that pushes “up against the total edge of what human consciousness can experience. Being able to feel completely inside music, like it’s on you, as a palpable, physical weight, is the closest you can feel that edge to be.”
It’s a teetering turn of phrase, but a perfect summation of what has made Clark’s music so special since he signed with Warp Records around the turn of the century. His many albums and single releases have a concrete and tangible sensation, as if you might buckle under their density if you weren’t using it as a soundtrack to your daily life or your dance floor movements.
Death Peak, his ninth full-length, is one of Clark’s densest efforts yet. Following a literal interpretation of its title, the range of these nine songs move like a long uphill climb, with feathery dance beats slowly getting overtaken by sodden, gasping compositions that lead to “Un U.K.,” a long closing track that skips through an array of moods and tempos before fading into oblivion.
That interpretation of the album is taking Clark at his word. According to the notes that came with the album, he has had the idea of calling an album Death Peak on his brain since last year and sequenced this collection accordingly. Divested of that title, these songs find the 37-year-old is happily coasting. He has gone miles beyond dainty work like “Lord of the Dance” (from his 2001 album Clarence Park) or the hip-hop influenced Body Riddle, but he isn’t pushing far beyond the heights he reached on Clark.
That’s not a bad place for Clark to be. Death Peak has some brilliantly immersive moments throughout. Lead single “Peak Magnetic” has a blithe spirit to it, like listening in to a gaggle of machines slowly coming to life and deciding to kick into a summery house groove. Combined, the final three tracks become a ravishing suite with the cracking booms and ominous children’s choir on “Catastrophe Anthem” slowly supplanted by the many dueling pulsations of “Living Fantasy” and the amoebic splitting and fracturing that unfolds over the nearly 10 minutes of “Un U.K.” Upon repeat listens, the fine tracks that marked the early part of Death Peak sound tarnished and wanting, the combined weight of the album suddenly appearing uneven and cumbersome.