Clark – Fantasm Planes EP Launch, London’s KOKO, September 15 2012
KOKO always gets the juices flowing. Maybe it’s the excellent gothic layout of mezzanines, balconies and dance floor that lets you choose your perspective. More so, perhaps it’s that constant flirtation with the underground, just enough to ensure that large but respectable artists will fill out the venue.
Numerous artists will play audio/visual tonight, but it’s only at the point of entry to we appreciate the scale of the venue and the size of the projection screen. As we descend to the dance floor, the screen is raised, revealing oddly shaped shadows across the stage, in front of yet another cinema screen against the back wall.
A solitary word, white on black, “Raffertie”, sits above the silhouettes like a halo. The group are three-piece comprising of drums, synths and bass/vocals. Subtle ambience fades in, before a solid downtempo beat cuts through. The screen fades into a display of murky colours and geometric shapes that fit well with the atonal mood of the intro. The drummer mixes his real kit with synth percussion, adding a little edge. Washy pads offer real melody and heavy bass notes sweeps across the floor, instantly enriching this whole post-rock-meets-trip-hop sound. As songs progress, the tempo remains steady, but melodies brighten and fill out. The bassist’s vocals enter the fray, processed with chorus effect that adds to the ether of synths, plus time-lapsed clouds and tides on-screen. A decent performance ends, the front screen descends.
A fifteen minute break, all eyes firmly on wrists and iPhones for the time and crowds swarm back into formation with no space for daylight. Duly, the screen rises once more to reveal a completely transformed stage and one man in a glowing tee making some final adjustments. We note that the artist, a musicians’ musician, criminally underrated for the majority of his career, has packed out one of the hottest venues in London. Clark gives a curt salute to the crowd, who respond with a racket of cheers, but his busy-bee demeanour leaves no time for self-adulation.
Clark plays an edited version of ‘The Pining (Part II)’ taken from his most recent LP Iradelphic, featuring the same beautiful vocals, but richer melodic layers and foregoing any percussion. The crowd sways, the track reaches a huge crescendo to a maelstrom of florescence on visuals, before a huge kick powers through. Straight into the next track, Clark’s own brand of nu-skool hip-hop hammers the audience. On-screen, clenched fists punch in time to each bass drum, while an open hand slap swings to the harsh snare. The sound is heavily saturated, yet crystal clear.
The dance floor erupts as there is a seamless switch into something reminiscent of acid house. Imagery influenced by the artwork of Clark’s Totem’s Flare cuts and overlaps in sync, before the pace increases further and select tracks from Turning Dragon are mixed in. Dark synths tear through, the rhythms blur the lines of techno and electro and symbolic hands pulsate under misty red visuals. Two-step garage beats fuse with minimal techno playing at relentless tempo, melodies stab and the rumbling bass causes an earthquake. Suddenly we’re at half-tempo. A crescendo of percussion, mega-rich bass, a steady uprising of deep pads and emotive strings. Truly epic. This is the end.
Now it becomes clear what Fantasm Planes is, recaps of Clark but tailor-made for somewhere like KOKO. It sounds excellent on iPod headphones, but a big club is the real place to experience it. The refined production, the packed house, the energy shown on stage – this isn’t just an album launch, it’s a rebirth.