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Chris Clark
Sixteen Tons 
By Eric Jansma
A fast Jungle beat drops and gets broken down into fragments, leaving anyone who was dancing wondering: what’s next? Noises, scratches and contra-rhythms are thrown at ears and feet, with only the bass keeping you remotely in check of the beats-per-minute you should be moving your body to. Then, the bass halts and all dancing suddenly looks awkward. In a minute long cacophony, all notes and beats are mixed, stretched, distorted, hinting at the track you just heard and at the one that might follow. From this chaos, finally a completely new sound texture evolves and Chris Clark lands on an Electro track that gets the crowd moving again. Then, he rises from his almost continuously bent-over position, breathes, sips his bottle of beer and gives the audience a grin. Yes, this is a wicked mind at work in Sixteen Tons, all right.

Chris Clark debuted in 2001, while still studying maths on university on the record label Warp, also the home to the notorious Aphex Twin. And there are resemblances. In both cases you’re talking about disorienting Ambient music with a sharp edge. However, Clark’s music comes across a bit more subdued. The fast-paced break beats are there, for sure, but the undertone is darker - ominous maybe. If Aphex Twin would be a raving lunatic, Chris Clark would be his quiet, but far more dangerous brother.

During his set, it becomes clear that you have to be in the dancing crowd to fully experience and appreciate Chris Clark’s performance. You have to really listen to keep up with the tempo changes and different styles: this is no simple hop-along house music. The concert is a series of changing rhythms and moods that are connected by complex interludes. It is interesting and at the same time great fun. And once you get into the weird musical twists and turns, you get sucked in. However, there seems to be no real build-up in the set, and there’s no climax at the end. Or it must be that suddenly, Clark rises up, waves, and is gone. What remains is the desire for an encore that doesn’t come.

If you are sitting back at one of the tables across the bar, the concert may have passed unnoticed. At some moments, you may actually have thought that over there on stage, some maniac was pushing his records into a food processor that was wired to speakers. Or that the CD player is hanging at random moments… Which is probably why after the concert, the Sixteen Ton’s audience seems to be divided into those who obviously had a good time and those who aren’t overly impressed.

But the verdict is: with most big names in dance music producing risk-free muzak, it is nice to see that at least one creative mind is brave enough to demand the audience to pay proper attention. If you did so last Saturday, you will know what I mean.

Photo by Anna Gavrilova

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