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Claro Intelecto - Reform Club

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Artist: Claro Intelecto

Album: Reform Club

Label: Delsin

Review date: Jun. 8, 2012


Claro Intelecto - "Second blood" (Reform Club)


There’s something to be said for staying true to yourself and everybody’s saying it about Mark Stewart now. It almost feels like a pity-pat on the back when I read the gushing praise for his return as Claro Intelecto on Reform Club because, after all, he was on Modern Love for so many years and was practically the only artist on the roster offering a glimmer of light in the label’s increasingly unwavering hellscape (excepting the Warehouse Sessions, anyway). As the sounds of Demdike Stare and Andy Stott deteriorated into inscrutable hauntology and pulverizing slabs of scum-laden techno much to the delight of onlookers, Claro Intelecto quietly stayed faithful to the notion that there was still air left to breathe, that love didn’t have to be riddled with disease to thrive.

It’s that purity of purpose that colors Reform Club and, as Modern Love increasingly marginalizes itself, moving in for the signing is Amsterdam’s reliable Delsin imprint. After seven years with Modern Love, Stewart has timed this move to perfection – 2010’s New Life EP was the last original production we’d heard of him until now and, in retrospect, sounds fitting as a conclusion. “Back in the Day” sounds like he’s trying out knackered house, but the airy melody of “New Life” on the flip is that hope creeping through. It’s the perfect parting shot.

The press materials of 2008’s Metanarrative state that it is “a stylistic reduction that looks for warmth and detail in every nook and cranny.” Fans of both Stewart and Delsin will be comforted to discover that the search goes on in earnest with Reform Club. A little older and a little more experienced, the sound of Claro here is slower in BPM but more graceful as a result. “Reformed” opens, free of the overpowering noise that comprises Stott’s We Stay Together or the foreboding ambiance that plagues Demdike Stare’s Elemental. This is more in line with current labelmates Conforce or Delta Funktionen in its soft synthesizer swaths and bounce, a lightness of feeling. It’s Claro Intelecto feeling comfortable.

“Blind Side” is another tune driven by handclaps and a slow-attack/slow-decay ebb and flow of melody. Things don’t start to slow down until the gorgeous “Still Here,” and even then, its Vangelis-like synth prevents the song from feeling as sluggish as its tempo suggests. The album explores the unheralded spaces of this lower-BPM range, still strongly influenced by dub-techno and Detroit, but infused with Claro’s own contemplative twist, exemplified in “Scriptease” and one of the highlights of the record, “Night of the Maniac.”

Reform Club is, despite Claro Intelecto’s reputation, not one for the purists. The gentle, distant piano that complements the melody on closer “Quiet Life” illustrates that while dance music is still at the heart of what he does, the muted energy and consideration given for something greater – anything, really, which lies beyond us – goes beyond a club and, by extension, your typical club fare. It’s rare in electronic music that you discover something so obvious after so many years when it was right in front of you all along, but lo, that’s precisely what we have here.

By Patrick Masterson

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Warehouse Sessions

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Find out more about Delsin

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