Claro Intelecto: Reform Club

Reform Club, Mark Stewart's third Claro Intelecto full-length and first since 2008's Metanarrative, finds the Manchester-based producer delivering a nine-track set of lush house and techno. Issued on Delsin rather than on Modern Love, on which most of the Claro Intelecto material has appeared, Reform Club also finds Stewart eschewing the stripped-back style of his Warehouse Sessions twelve-inch series (the five volumes ultimately collected on the Warehouse Sessions CD in 2009) for a maximal sound that's still dance-based but sonically rich and artfully crafted.

“Reformed” gets things off on a luscious tip, with a subtly thrusting pulse augmented with sultry layers of ultra-smooth synthetic washes and wide-screen atmosphere. The sultry vibe carries on into the subsequent pieces, with “Still Here” a particularly lovely exercise in melancholy, but a shift gradually sets in as the album progresses, such that “It's Getting Late,” for example, not only kicks up its heels more aggressively but also lets a smattering of acid seep into its locomotive house shuffle too. As we enter the album's mid-point, the beats grow more insistent and dominant, with hi-hats, kick drums, and ride cymbals adding to the music's kinetic push, until we reach the late-night cruising music of “Second Blood” and the rawer climes of “Night of the Maniac,” which guides us into the deepest depths of a dark club space, and finally “Quiet Life,” a beatless reverie that eases us out on a note of calm.

Anyone looking for the quintessence of the Claro Intelecto sound need look no further than “Control,” which percolates nonstop in its hyperactive mix of claps, drum machine patterns, and synth washes. Listening to Reform Club, one word repeatedly comes to mind: poised. It is dance music—pristine, atmospheric house and techno, if you prefer—but of a particularly serene and subtly soulful type, one more likely to soothe than agitate.

April 2012