Despite being a cornerstone of experimental synth and psychedelia, Spencer Clark is often overshadowed by his other half in seminal noise duo The Skaters. While James Ferraro’s rapid output often puts him the constant view of many hypnogogic collectors, Clark has quietly carved out a niche for himself that blends immersive synth, cult theories and several exotic locals, culminating in one of his best albums yet. Under the name Typhonian Highlife he’s built out three albums, with The World of Shells acting as a kind of completion and culmination of exploration that brought him to Sicilian Caves, Hanging Rock in Australia, H.R. Geiger’s castle and a massive aquatic environment to find inspiration.
The band name itself derives from The Typhonian Order, a late nineteenth / early twentieth century group obsessed with The Occult that included Aleister Crowley as a leader in its final phases. Clark marries this fascination with yet another pulled from stories of the Chitauri, an alien reptile race that controls humanity from the shadows (the kind that inspired lizard people, Illuminati types of conspiracy theories). But Clark doesn’t just dive into the tin foil hat theories of sub-Reddit’s backwaters; he jumps off of the stories of Credo Mutwa, Crowley and oddly the ’90s TV show Alien Nation to create his own pulsating world centered around demonic faces from his own dreams that he’s given the name Chitahoori.
Now all that backstory is all well and good, but how does it translate to sound? Quite incredibly, actually. With all the cult imagery in place, Clark then winds his way through a synthetic world that feels damp, cold and glowing of its own volition. While he may be focusing on the auras of demonic masks in its construction, on the receiving end it comes across as a soundtrack to the kinds of natural oddities that populate The Mariana Trench. The World of Shells is full of shadows darkened by deep set drone, fluttering syths set a alight by perfectly curated sampling and Clark’s own sense of wonder that’s transmitted in each and every note. Utilizing an E-Max II, a vintage ’90s sampling keyboard, he stacks sound on sound until there’s no room for the listener to escape. He scampers through his vast wasteland of damp damage until it culminates in the fifteen plus minute epic, “Oracle Of Egret” which bursts from the cold darkness into an arid environment, ostensibly cowering at the foot of massive gold alien idols that are given life through the echoing vocals of Nour Mobarak. Clark may not always inhabit the same casual conversations as Ferraro, but this album is a strong argument to correct that injustice.
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