Having a car crash as the catalyst for your first album in 14 years would normally set a bad precedent for the music that was to follow. That is unless you’re Dave Clarke.
Desecration of Desire is the epitome of Dave Clarke’s background tastes. A mature offering of post-punk and vocal electro, written by a gothy-techno DJ who hides himself through a placid facade, and superstar persona. Being the passenger in a car accident coming back from Serbia in 2016 served as the influence for releasing something more personal. Perhaps it was one of those life-affirming flashes you often hear about in films, where the protagonist finds a new meaning for life or just an opportunity for Clarke to gather his thoughts in a moment of reflection. Either way, the resultant piece of work feels like an attempt to leave something behind that expresses a greater level of humanity and desire, more than anything he’s done before.
Clarke began his production career back in the early '90s making outrageously, daring hardcore techno, in the same realm as Speedy J and DJ Rush. Throughout his early production career, he never shied away from his influences. Hip-hop and electro featured heavily throughout his records, through the amplified breakbeats, and machine constructed kicks and basslines, and homages to Detroit, and Rotterdam techno. But in whatever guise the music came, it was still always techno. In 2016, Clarke released Charcoal Eyes, a remix album of bands of the electro-wave variety. It was a record that embedded and toyed with vocals and construction in a way that brought Clarke closer to the world of bands, wave music, and cult-like rock euphoria, in what proved to be a catalyst for things to come.
Being in the mind of a band is where the album stems from. There are guest vocalists galore on this record. Louisahhh provides the sultry lead for the Department S cover "Is Vic There?", a track that flips the original on the head, by converting the dated Top of the Pops, boy-punk-band original into something that wouldn’t feel strange being featured on a Dark Entries compilation. Former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan provides his gristly, whiskey-tainted rasp-voice on two tracks: "Charcoal Eyes (Glass Tears)" —as written by Dave Clarke himself—and "Monochrome Sun." Both are more abject pieces of sonic design strewn and desert-kissed poetry than actual songs. Berlin-based singer Anika adds a touch of kraut-wave coldness to "I’m Not Afraid," featuring the sunken-low, bassline as per Keith Tenniswood, famed for his collaborative project Two Lone Swordsmen alongside Andrew Weatherall.
The record’s key aesthetic is its spine of sharp, stabbing, percussive kicks. These electro drums, mixed with a gothic narrative, and post-punk bass and structure is reminiscent of what DJ Hell attempted with Gigolo back in the early days. The punctuating harmonics and cavernous synth sounds create a much more modern, and subdued alternative feel to it. One that exudes authenticity—seemingly important for an album so personal. Released under any other name and this record wouldn’t feel amiss on any of the underground, coldwave labels popping up across the world.
Yet with someone with such a history and vocal-passion towards post-punk, it feels amiss that it’s taken Clarke so long to muster up anything that even represents this history of his. Has the world of DJing provided too much of a distraction, as it has done with many of today’s greatest production talents? Being behind the decks for some has become a system more aligned to entertainment, and less of artistry. It has desecrated desire among some of the best musicians out there, as great producers of our time gain more recognition with their touring schedule and RA rating. Which is why it’s great to hear such a record built on experience and passion equally, by a great innovator who set a real precedent for music that's known for being hard as hell.
Desecration of Desire is still built on everything that Dave Clarke has created to date, but the hardness is gone; and if you look close enough, you might be able to find the soft exterior he’s trying to show. “I have fucked with the past,” Dave writes on "Charcoal Eyes (Glass Tears)," “now I dance with the future…starting to feel unshackled by unwarranted fears.”
02. Is Vic There? feat. Louisahhh
03. Frisson feat. Mt. Sims
05. Dot Forty One (Mute)
06. Charcoal Eyes (Glass Tears) feat. Mark Lanegan
07. Monochrome Sun feat. Mark Lanegan
08. Cover Up My Eyes feat. Gazelle Twin
09. I'm Not Afraid feat. Anika & Keith Tenniswood
10. Death Of Pythagoras
Skint will release The Desecration Of Desire on October 27.