Review: Clark Showcases Remarkable Sound Design on ‘The Last Panthers’

Often labelled ‘background music’, ambient and minimalistic electronica has always shared certain proximity, if not direct interrelation, with the music of film. Clark’s The Last Panthers bridges both worlds, sitting comfortably as both a functional soundtrack and artistic project. While Clark has previously delivered material befitting the soundtrack genre, it seems the creative impetus of scoring has taken the producer further, yielding some unorthodox yet engagingly creative material.

The Last Panthers features music from and inspired by Clark’s score for 2015 crime thriller of the same name. Culling some 60 tracks from the six-part series down to 19, Clark weaves the disparate musical cues and fragmentary background noise of The Last Panthers into a dark and brooding album. While the ominous tone of the television series undeniably bleeds through, these dark tracks are more than capable of standing on their own legs.

Stripping back some of his driving techno-tinged rhythms, Clark delves deeply into a world of ambience and atmospherics. His self-titled 2014 album foregrounded the IDM, techno and ambient electronic leanings of fellow Warp artists Aphex Twin, Autechre and Boards of Canada. But with The Last Panthers the influential minimalism of Phillip Glass and the background atmospherics of Brian Eno are brought to fore

With percussion taking a backseat, malignant soundscapes and gritty textures permeate the album. Driven more by reverberant pulses, opening track Back to Belgrade interweaves weathered production and orchestral elements to create booming crescendos. Interlaced with shimmering pads Heiro-Bosch for Khali creates a surreal sonic environment where muffled and rattling beats scratch distantly in the mix. Casual piano sonatas provide moments of softness amidst the suffocating orchestral miasmas and foreboding sonic environment.

Born atop chiming arpeggios and droning atmospheric pads, Open Foe feels like something would be easily at home on the producer’s Clarence Park LP and functions as a great standalone track. Diamonds Aren’t Forever II’s stygian horns convey the feeling of nightmarish funeral processional, taking the albums free forming experimentation to its utmost limits before abruptly shifting to a refined piano arrangement. The aptly named Cryogenic employs even colder tones. The dissonant track shivers with isolation and icy industrial textures. A true work of malevolent sound design,

A true work of malevolent sound design, Brother Killer imports impending calamity with distantly echoing rhythms and nebulous samples filtered beyond recognition. A lighter follow-up Omni Vignette works together detuned piano lathered in dense layers of ambient effects processing. Contrasting with more cinematic arrangements the resonant track exemplifies the producer’s ability to weave delicate yet moody arrangements.

Upon listening there’s little question that Clark’s latest helping can be received on equal terms as the producer’s previous studio work. Providing a sonic narrative of its own and some strong standalone material to boot, The Last Panthers is another remarkable piece of electronica from the talented UK producer.