Gavin Clark - Evangelist

by Warwick Stubbs Rating:9 Release Date:2015-12-14

On 16 February 2015, English singer and songwriter Gavin Clark passed away at the age of 46, and although his work seems to be almost wholly absent from the mainstream music scene, two songs he co-wrote and guested on – ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ and ‘Broken’ – remain as two of the strongest and most heartfelt pieces of music on the 2007 UNKLE album War Stories.

Incomplete at his passing, Evangelist, was finished off by UNKLE and Toydrum members James Griffiths and Pablo Clements sometimes using the barebones of demo recordings. The vast majority of the album sounds like an offshoot of War Stories which has much more of a rock presence than UNKLE’s other albums, and while this works well for most songs on Evangelist, occasionally the strong processed Electronica edge could have been done without, and a much more natural rock instrumentation substituted. When the listener finally gets to the solo acoustic track ‘Whirlwind of Rubbish’ one wonders why there couldn’t have been more songs that sounded like this. That’s not to say that those processed textures are bad, though they might at times detract a little, it is the voice and sound of Gavin Clark that keeps the album focussed.

When I suddenly stopped being a critic for the sake of the review, I found myself singling along to the chorus of ‘Same Hands’ and ‘No One Will Ever Know’. Other songs carried just as much charm and I began to discover other textures on the album. ‘I’m in Love Tonight’ is a slowburn percussion, keyboard, bass and wistfully wandering viola (played by Grinderman’s Warren Ellis) that underscores Clark’s husky tones as he sings “You will break me, you will tame me, I will close you, I will save you. There’s whispers in the street, there’s whispers in the street,” and the song builds to it’s final crescendo of “Nothing really matters...” to fade away; The seven and a half minute ‘Never Feel So Young’ is a stripped back take on Clark’s distinctly gravelly voice and rugged falsetto with processed guitar tracks and bass that dips and crescendos elegantly; ‘I Wanna Lift You Up’ lacks some inspirational instrumentation but still gets Clark’s point across.

It’s simply a pity that we don’t get to hear more of Clark the musician on this album, even if it was just with more of an acoustic vibe, but when you hear his voice at the closing of the pumping track ‘No One Will Ever Know’ say ecstatically “that was awesome” it’s clear that this sound is something he was very enthusiastic about.

Evangelist begins with a God-invoked drawl of “This is the world I created, I created life, I created life,” and ends with the mostly acoustic ‘Whirlwind of Rubbish’ giving the album it’s crowning moment of subtlety and the listener an insight into Clark’s compositional process. This song would have made a powerful final statement, but the album chooses to take us out with Clark’s own personal statement of ‘Holy, Holy’ in a modern chant backed by bass guitar and sound effects.

There are moments of rock, and there are moments of gentle moods – the latter half of the stripped back ‘Never Feel This Young’ – and each moment has a special and touching place. It’s an album worth exploring to not only hear the unique voice of Gavin Clark but to hear a talent taken so soon and to imagine only what could have been more. Hopefully there are archives that will reveal more to experience, but in the meantime there is the sole Sunhouse record Crazy On the Weekend, and Evangelist as his final statement.

 

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