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Former Warp stalwart swaps beats for bows on haunting apocalyptic fable / UNCUT

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UNCUT's Sam Richards writes.....Signing to Warp around the turn of the millennium, Chris Clark was always likely to find himself operating in the shadow of the label's more illustrious names. Early releases duly combined the glazed childlike wonder of Boards Of Canada with the rhythmic disruption of Aphex Twin, but it wasn't until 2014's superb self-titled album that a distinct Clark style solidified: glinting and megalithic, occasionally euphoric but freighted with dread. An atmospheric soundtrack for Sky Atlantic crime drama The Last Panthers opened new doors, eventually leading – via remixes of Max Richter and noted proto-raver JS Bach – to an eye-catching transfer to German classical powerhouse Deutsche Grammophon.

So while in some ways Playground In A Lake feels like a stunning reinvention, it's also the album that Clark's been stealthily working towards for 20 years. Experiments with choral samples on 2017's Death Peak and acoustic textures on 2019's Kiri Variations have emboldened him here to abandon programmed beats entirely, his imperious Blade Runner sonics meshing organically with a more austere, pre-electric soundworld of piano, strings and madrigal-style vocals. Rather than the abstract imagery of his early Warp albums, Playground In A Lake tilts confidently at the big themes: loss of innocence, environmental destruction, the end of the world. We're a long way from "Nostalgic Oblong" now.   PHOTO: Eva Vermandel