Clark / Nosaj Thing Théâtre Fairmount, Montreal QC, April 8

Clark / Nosaj Thing Théâtre Fairmount, Montreal QC, April 8
Photo: Pierre Bourgault
While the Théâtre Fairmount has rebirthed itself from the ashes of the Cabaret du Mile-End — figuratively, not literally — as a new venue for mostly electronic shows, it simply isn't tailored for it. From the lacklustre sound to the awkward stage setup, it doesn't have much going for itself as an electronic venue, so you can imagine how this wouldn't necessarily be the most favourable of venues for Clark and Nosaj Thing.
When Clark finally hit the decks, backed by two large distortion-filled screens, the sizeable crowd slowly made its way to the front, but were careful not to get too close. This timidity would soon dissipate, as Clark sonically exhorted concertgoers to move. Just as with his recorded material, it's difficult to capture Clark's work with words. Stilted and jarring at times, melodic and beautiful at others, it's a veritable smorgasbord of sound palettes and manipulations; there is no category with the breadth needed to fully encapsulate Clark's sound. His set was heavy on material off his stupendous 2014 self-titled release, but he also snuck in a fair amount of older gems, as well as some more recent tracks off his new Flame Rave EP, including the standout "Silver Sun."
Clark is no simple knob-turner; running back and forth from sequencer to keys and back to his mixer, he was actually composing on the spot, which is why none of his material sounds simply recreated. Rather, it takes on a life of its own. If anything, the sequencing of the tracks was even better than on his records, flowing into one another in their new revamped forms. A song like "Sodium Trimmers" transformed into what can only be described as whale trance, while the dance-y "Unfurla" became even more complex and alluring.
The back end of the set was dedicated to a blissful '90s revival, both via the material and the backing projections. Everything from drum'n'bass and darkstep was thrown in, with syncopated breakbeats taking over. By the time Clark's set was over, everyone in attendance was clamouring for more, but with a quick nod, off he went.
Unfortunately, having Clark play before Nosaj Thing was simply bad logistics. Following such an intricate and arresting performance with a relatively standard DJ set does not make for a good concert closer. Certainly, Nosaj Thing wasn't bad — it was pretty great for what it was — but it played like a typical nu-R&B set that you can catch at just about every lounge and club in a 10 km radius. The crowd was moving, but not with the manic fervour with which they'd been just minutes before. It was a subdued groove that would have been a perfect primer for Clark, but it didn't work quite as well the other way around.