Metamorphosis in the music industry is quite tricky to genuinely achieve. For a business often constructed around ideas of identity, audience connectivity and authenticity, the cries of “sell out” from an artistic shift can often be the death knell for some artists. Clark’s sizeable back catalogue highlights his ability to twist his sounds away from his past with each new release, moving forward in a trajectory that is impressive in its seeming unwillingness to stand still or to repeat itself. Kiri Variations, however, is something of a seismic shift in output. Where each new Clark release saw a step away from what had gone before, this is one giant leap for Clark-kind.

The impetus for the work was from being commissioned to soundtrack the TV programme Kiri, but only a small fragment of the work was eventually used in the show. What is presented here is work based on the source material, which is surprising as there is an underlying feeling of eerie suspense throughout Kiri Variations that is pensive, tension-building and unnerving. It sounds like the score to a psychedelic horror film. If you are expecting another set of contorting, warped and undulating beats from Clark then Kiri Variations is not for you. But, if you want expansive, plaintive and sumptuous sounds then step right in.

The general mood of the album is one of quiet introspection more than anything else. Pianos and stringed instruments are front and centre here and there is often a slightly out of tune or out of time component, which adds a sense of childlike charm to the tunes whilst also offering a preternatural and mildly disturbing aspect. This is highlighted on ‘Kiri’s Glee’, which has plucked violins, low cello tones and what sounds like a recorder or other type of wind instrument all vying for attention in a lackadaisical manner, like a travelling minstrel troupe of yesteryear all of their tits on hallucinogenics. There are a number of tunes here which have a psych feeling to them without quite being able to be categorised as psych music. The use of fragmented voices on ‘Forebode Knocker’ with a building drone-scape and chiming minimalist piano highlights Clark’s ability to use tension and space in music to create an unsettling feeling for the listener, whilst ‘Tobi Thwarted’ comes off like Stars of the Lid in its lush meditative state.

Orchestration is important on this album, yet it is Clark’s ability to use it sparingly which is to be applauded. Across the album’s 14 tracks there is a focus on the space between notes, which is crucial in building a sense of tension which overarches the tracks on Kiri Variations. This could be the seemingly free forming piano on ‘Yarraville Bird Phone’, which is anchored by a violin, or the synth oscillations of ‘Flask/Abyss’.

‘Cannibal Homecoming’ is the most straightforward song here, following as it does a very typical structure which puts it at odds to the rest of the work here. However, Clark has done such an excellent job in regards to the order of the songs on Kiri Variations that the track comes as something of a surprise in its quasi-normalcy. Clark sings the vocals himself here, and comes off a little like Vincent Gallo trying to mimic James Vincent McMorrow – or maybe the other way around. The voice is multitracked and effected which adds to the sense of the unnatural in the seemingly normal which pervades the album as a whole.

Overall, Kiri Variations stands out from much of Clark’s previous output and this is a good thing (not to say his other work is poor, it’s far from it) as he morphs into another variant of his own artistic self. There is a sense of disquiet here, of older musical forms translocating modern fears and eternal wiles via foreboding ambient minimalist charm. Too eerie to be a comedown album, too scary to be a soundtrack, Kiri Variations is rich in weaving a tapestry of Wiccan ideals, of woodlands and innocence and dreams of suffocating entrapment, which combine to produce an album of unsettling pleasure.