Death Peak

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Death Peak arrived just over a year after Clark's somber score for the British crime drama TV series The Last Panthers, and it's hard not to hear it as an equal and opposite reaction. Where Last Panthers was wintry and precise, Death Peak overflows to a potentially dangerous degree as it explores how creation and destruction entwine on tracks full of beauty and menace. "Spring but Dark" sums up the album's aesthetic, with the fanfare of a children's choir and what sounds like industrial-sized steel drums undercut by relentlessly ticking percussion. As on Clark, Death Peak reflects the increasingly beat-driven nature of his work, but where the tracks on his previous album hummed along like perfectly crafted machines, this time he takes a much bolder approach. "Butterfly Prowler" pushes the tropical leanings of Clark to neon extremes, pairing rave-bright synths with dark underpinnings -- as well as house-tinged backing vocals and a freight engine -- in a way that's equally alien and danceable. "Peak Magnetic"'s pastoral danger flutters and pummels at the same time, its festive melody joined by a flock of chirping birds before hurtling off the edge of a cliff. Even on the more subdued tracks, Clark finds intriguing balances of Death Peak's elements, whether it's the way "Hoova" moves from infernal to angelic or the way the fittingly named "Slap Drones" turns pulsing, churning textures into a tour de force. The album's second half adds more political overtones on the mournful "Catastrophe Anthem" -- which feels like a rebuke when the children's choir sings "we are your ancestors" -- and on "Un U.K," which closes the album by uniting its sounds with a gravitas that goes beyond The Last Panthers. Like that album, Death Peak reaffirms that Clark's music isn't constrained by clearly defined concepts; if anything, he's liberated by them, and this is some of his finest, widest-ranging music yet.

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