Written by Nick Tario
When listening to Flame Rave, the latest EP by the British electronic musician Clark, it’s tempting to associate the music with words and phrases like “nocturnal” and “late night drive.” But this isn’t exactly the sort of music that easily fits into any mold, and the “nocturnal, late night drive” descriptors may give off the wrong impression, suggesting music similar to either ambient music or (on the other end of the spectrum) the poppy first half of the Drive soundtrack. But Flame Rave is too kinetic to belong to the likes of subdued ambiance, and too harsh and menacing to belong sandwiched between Riz Ortolani and Chromatics. Instead, the music occupies the realm of flashing lights and sirens, bursts of adrenaline, and imminent danger.
The first song on the EP is entitled “Silver Sun,” and starts off with an off-kilter, almost broken melody, as a propulsive krautrock percussion fills up the song. That sense of propulsion helps drive “Silver Sun,” as well as the majority of the other songs on the EP,
giving each song a distinct sense of movement, and the analogy between the propulsive nature of this music and the aforementioned act of driving is clear. As the percussion continues throughout “Silver Sun” it becomes almost militaristic, crushing all opposition that stands in its way.
The next song, “To Live and Die in Grantham,” has that same sense of propulsion, but with a more danceable feel, and it’s clear on this song where the “rave” part of the EP’s title comes from. I’m not sure where Grantham is, if it is anything like the song that shares its name, then it’s the sort of place where dystopian science fiction movies à la Blade Runner are set, the eerie synths that pervade the track giving a sense of claustrophobia as the music advances.
Third song “Springtime Linn” is where the EP reveals both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. While the propulsive beats behind each of the three songs thus far have given the EP a distinct atmosphere, the beats themselves leave something to be desired when it comes to variation. On occasion, the loud thumping beats get monotonous when going from one song to the next, and it’s easy to see how Flame Rave would be a stronger body of music with more sonic variation; while “Springtime Linn,” on its own is certainly a fine song, it’s placement in the EP initially feels more than a little redundant after the similar “Silver Sun” and “To Live and Die in Grantham.” Thankfully, the song ends up breaking the mold after the four minute mark, when the beat fades away and the song transitions into an almost cheerful secondary section.
The song to close out the EP is entitled “Unfurla Cremated,” and it’s the one song here that doesn’t feature that same percussive style. In fact, “Unfurla Cremated” almost seems to be the antithesis of the first three songs, as the synths drone on like a funeral march. As the music starts to swell around the track’s two minute mark it’s clear that the song is the resolution that the EP needed — if we’re going back to the driving analogy, it’s the musical equivalent of turning onto your street and heading towards the driveway. It’s the EP’s homestretch, and the climax that happens four minutes in is satisfying, although ultimately not as memorable as some of the highlights on the first two songs. And as the song closes, it’s apparent that Flame Rave is a short and to-the-point EP, one that leaves you wanting more of his nocturnal soundscapes.
Listen to more Clark on his SoundCloud.