In a recent interview, electronic music producer Chris Clark admitted he's ''a bit of a perfectionist'' when it comes to producing his beyond-intricate instrumentals. This is an understatement. Considering the Warp disciple's flair for pinpoint micro-rhythms, Clark's compositions come across like the inner whirlings of a beautifully disturbed mind. His beats rev up only to exhale into cleansing waves of static; each synthetic echo is draped with an echo of its own; oscillating fragments drift in and out of songs like unsettling half dreams-- this is imposing music. And without Clark's penchant for bruising emotion, it would be as useless as a stack of crashed, clicking hard drives. The human logic within his wave forms is convoluted but nonetheless present; Chris Clark is the guy with the bomb-rubble room-- a leaning pile of CDs here, gear head mags there, questionably clean clothes everywhere - in which everything is oddly in its right place.
Across his first three albums, Clark utilized his talents with steely machines and warmer acoustic instruments - including pianos and drums - to assemble increasingly fluid tapestries, culminating with 2006's masterful Body Riddle. That album - which attempted to answer the body's queries from the inside out - assured its longevity with an all-encompassing attention to detail: Two years later, fresh folds continue to reveal themselves. Turning Dragon takes a detour from Clark's ultimate goal of meshing man and machine into one seamless, clattering bundle. Consisting of material tailored during frenetic live gigs and pegged as a counterpart to Body Riddle rather than a proper follow-up, Dragon finds the robots taking the upper hand. Clark's OCD tendencies are still apparent, but they're conveyed in a markedly brasher manner-- snares snarl, samples fire off semi-automatically, and the compression gets bumped up to Justice levels. It's the fire-breathing flipside to Riddle's contemplative stateliness.
And it's liberating to hear this sonic manicurist doing his best to freak out. Clark wastes no time in addressing his newly hedonistic agenda with the appropriately titled ''New Year Storm''. Ostensibly, this is his take on straight-up techno, but the near-industrial 4/4 pummels more than it pulses as it attempts to push through the producer's constant barrage of air-raid assaults-- this is what Trent Reznor wants to sound like in 2008. Galvanizing beasts ''Volcan Veins'' and ''Truncation Horn'' both employ micro-sampling to punctuate their soaring-BPM onslaughts; in the midst of these recklessly caffeinated raves, Missy Elliott and INXS are nothing but scattershot pawns in Clark's twisted game.
So while Dragon may be billed as a visceral antidote to Clark's impossibly complex Erector Set productions, it still has all the markings of a confessed perfectionist. Yet, as Clark himself said last year, ''To make complex music with machines is actually pretty easy-- it's the mastering of technology rather than the mastering of music.'' While Dragon lacks some of the pathos of Clark's richest work, he's still much more than a mere button-pusher chasing the next plug-in. The struggle between his superhuman technical acumen and his desire to access nothing less than the secrets of the human condition continues to play out here, albeit on a more brazen plane. He's the ideal type of musical perfectionist-- one who realizes flawlessness is unattainable, but strives for it headlong all the same. --Pitchfork