I nearly didn`t do this, chickened out, but I really felt it needed to be covered. My reasons for bottling it based on insecurities. I know nothing about Clark, and even less about the genre of “modern beat-driven music” that he usually operates in. We`d been lucky enough to receive promos from WARP in the past, and it was clear that he was doing something pretty special, texturally, but to write about it in my usual way was impossible. I have no frame of reference. I am ignorant of this music`s history and context. Nonetheless, when the release of “The Last Panthers” was announced I actually wrote to the publicist (Echo Empire) and requested a download, intrigued by the one-sheet`s description of both the album and the TV series (also produced by WARP) it scores.
The CD edition hit shops around a month ago and as I procrastinated (“hesitate and all is lost”) I completely missed the boat when a number of fine, intelligent reviews went on-line, critiquing not only the album but also its efficiency as a soundtrack. Since “The Last Panthers” is not available to view in Japan, this is something I cannot do. I cannot listen and watch. I can only listen, at the outset making my efforts only half of what had gone before. However, the vinyl appeared in shops last week and I thought I should take the opportunity to at least “flag” the record up, since above all else “The Last Panthers” is the sound of someone, an artist, truly stretching himself, beyond anywhere they have gone before, rising to a challenge, to transcend any previous genre / pigeon-hole, and succeeding.
Music reduced to vapour. Swells and atmospheres. This vapour a poison that induces a sickness. Its listener, its sufferer made to grasp desperately at the past, as if it were thinning oxygen, to attempt to embrace memory as it crumbles like ash and through heartbroken fingers falls away. Ask the dust. A panic through old photographs, searching for something to save, some keepsake, vain in the knowledge that all is already lost. Music orchestral in its scope and ambition, whose beauty is transient, but an ill-fitting mask, slipping, revealing, giving way to unease. Solo piano and violin conspiring to give calm and song, respectively, to fraying nerves, only to decay, become detuned and dissonant, and conveying instead a space where all is worry. String loops stutter in a pizzicato of locked grooves. Fanfares run at the wrong speed, unsure of themselves. Choirs of light, and therefore hope, struggle with storm clouds, skies squeezed by grey. Bright themes are dragged into shadow. Any peace short-lived. The sanctuary of dream interrupted, invaded. Beats are an unlatched shutter banging in a gale, a demon trying to get in, scissors snip snip snipping, prison doors slamming, knives being sharpened, their sparks igniting the dark. The fragile melodies of a music box are over-amplified and like a hellbound heart torn apart. Strings are bent to a screaming howl against a hail of chaos, confusion and distress. There is an overwhelming feeling of lonely exhaustion, of catching one`s breath, after sobs, chase, escape, and of foreboding, of a net yet tightening, walls so close as to be a pillow held over one`s face. Of a fate that cannot be outrun. With only imagination`s internal screening to go on the music describes a journey to a ragged, cornered redemption, its protagonist a broken bad lieutenant on all fours, crying at an altar, where one last act of violence perhaps cancels the debt.
“The Last Panthers” is above all else a grand achievement.