Album of the Week: Claro Intelecto – In Vitro – Volume one

In Vitro greets the listener with Claro Intelecto’s  classic “Peace of Mind” descending down the familiar melodic movement, chiming between luxurious pads. It seems appropriate that the track that broke Mark Stewart as Claro Intelecto, is the track that would introduce the first of a two-part compilation cataloguing the producer’s work. The track hasn’t aged at all, with the subtle details and entrancing textures captivating as much as they did back in 2004 when the record was first released.

When the rest of the dance floor was chasing the Electroclash trend, Stewart gravitated towards the Detroit influences and produced a pure Electro classic, that has outlived any of his trend-informed contemporaries. The track  has been a touchstone in the Electro genre ever since,  re-issued on Delsin in 2014 and then again today on the compilation, and its appeal is as strong as ever. Stewart eventually moved on from those early Electro and Techno LPs for the likes of AI records evolving into the more dubby realm where the likes of which Basic Channel were conjuring deep Techno, but at the core of his music as Claro Intelecto, and reflected in this compilation, is a sonic mysticism that captivate beyond those boundaries.

Deep chords and lingering pads suffuse the determined pulse of drum machines and bass synthesisers in music that flourishes in a humid atmosphere. Sifting through the outer layers of a track like “When the time is right,” you only find a kick drum buried deep in the lower frequencies, where you have to extricate it from a swampy confusion of sounds that suffocate it.  There’s a severe attention to the details in sound design, where even though a melody, harmony or rhythm might not develop through the course of track, that these accents develop like a cinematic diorama unfolding.

The compilation takes huge leaps through Claro Intelecto’s back catalogue, and without following some sequential route, it immediately exposes a singular sonic identity to Stewart’s work under this alias. Even the surprisingly raunchy “Two Thousand” with its growling bass line and excessive beat is usurped in its efforts to indulge an immediacy as the repetitive lines of the track, lock the listener into some trance-inducing wonder. The track at first jolts you from the daytime reverie of the first of two records, before slipping you back into the sanguine sounds that will eventually conclude that side on “Beautiful Death” – even through an abstract collage of Claro Intelecto’s work, a narrative exists.

While, through the course of Claro Intelecto’s discography, Minimal, Dub, Techno, Electro and even Deep House would label his work, Stewart’s sound would ultimately avoid all of these designations and  today it thrives on its own terms. Between album cuts and EPs, there is a distinctive sound. Often, it might resonate with some trend or zeitgeist, but as a recent LP like “Exhilarator” demonstrates,  Claro Intelecto’s music exists irregardless of such confined parameters. In Vitro – Volume one exposes a truly individual artist that remains apposite to the electronic music landscape.