Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Clark's self-titled 2014 album, as well as the EPs surrounding it, found the producer gearing his music more toward the dancefloor than ever before, resulting in some of the most acclaimed work of his career to date. In 2015, he explored a new dimension of his sound when he was asked to compose the score for a six-part fictional crime drama mini-series based on the network of international jewel thieves known as the Pink Panthers. Produced by Warp Films, The Last Panthers premiered on European television networks in October and November of 2015, and while Clark's score was initially overshadowed by the presence of David Bowie's soon-to-be-released "Blackstar" as the series' theme song, Warp issued his music as a standalone album in 2016.
The venn diagram showing modern classical and electronic composers has been steadily shrinking in recent years. Nothing is more telling about the growing overlap between the two circles (and it probably stings quite harshly to those more classically educated composer) than the sheer volume of meaty commissions going to artists from popular and electronic backgrounds. Alongside all of this, TV’s golden age has ushered in an entire generation of godlike (and slightly younger) talent behind the camera, what’s more armed with lovely fat wads of cash and for the most part damn good tastes in music.
Clark is Chris Clark, an English music producer dabbling in electronica. His sound comes from the obsessive distortion, degradation and decay of sounds, re-recording field recordings until an authenticity of history and texture bleeds from them. The Last Panthers is Clark’s original score for the Sky Atlantic crime series of the same name, set to accompany the unfolding of the narrative of the characters as it spans different eras.
Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s recent score for The Revenant set the bar for electronic soundtracks pretty high. But Chris Clark has also had an extremely good crack at building moody atmospherics with the music from this Warp Films-produced crime drama.He’s also gone and made one of his best albums yet, too. In the past, Clark has veered between styles without always finding a clear identity, but this ebbs and flows from distant pianos to electronic crunch and terrifying drones to lyrical melodies, with motifs repeated and reworked.Here, he’s created an ultra-coherent, often beautiful and (despite it originally being ‘just’ background music) oddly personal statement.
The Last Panthers is a six-episode mini-series loosely based on a real-life network of Slavic thieves, nicknamed "Pink Panthers" by Interpol, who were notorious from the '90s onwards for their audacious crimes. They're said to have perpetrated "some of the most glamorous heists in criminal history," with one criminologist having called their work a form of artistry. It's all so ripe for the screen that it's no wonder the story recently became a TV show.
It's a tricky subject to tackle is the score. Synthetic, cinematic music, and its technical makeup has come a long way since those revolutionary, halcyon days of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, or even John Carpenter-led scores - the '70s and '80s, basically, when ears were opened up to the possibilities of what synthesisers could do for the moving image. What a time it must have been for the film fan, though.
When the announcement hit last fall that David Bowie had recorded the theme to a British crime serial called The Last Panthers, a smaller piece of news got drowned out in the hubbub: Chris Clark, aka Clark of Warp Records, was tasked with composing the sound and music for the show itself. It was a surprising connection to many, but becomes perhaps less so when you realize that The Last Panthers show is produced by Warp Films, a burgeoning offshoot of the venerated electronic label. As they did with Broadcast for the studio’s indie horror film Berberian Sound Studio, Warp have decided to release Clark's work as a standalone effort.
Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of original soundtracks divorced from the film or TV show that they are meant to accompany can be tricky business. Should the music speak for itself without any external context? Should the merits of the music be considered in light of the non-musical medium that the music was designed around? I made it a point not to watch any episodes of The Last Panthers before listening to Clark’s soundtrack. Indeed, I know next to nothing about the show.