5 Tracks That Illustrate the Evolution of Will Clarke
Jan 31, 2023
5 min read
Few artists have evolved the way Will Clarke has. Ever since the UK-bred DJ, producer, and label head broke into the dance music circuit, he has been impossible to pin down. In truth, the only thing that’s remained consistent about him is his beard.
Releasing music as far back as 2011, the level of production is always consistent. The danceability is even more consistent. But the sonic quality? Let’s say when hitting shuffle on his catalog with closed eyes, one could believe it was a new artist with every track.
A pivotal moment in Clarke’s career came with the release of his first EP on Dirtybird, The Boogie Woogie, in 2015. For several years after that, he was a staple of Dirtybird. Original releases, event bookings, compilation entries—he went everywhere with the birds.
Around 2019, Clarke’s tracks took on a much more ominous identity. Where there was once bounce, there was now darkness. Dirtybird no longer seemed like a logical fit. The throbbing broodiness of that identity began to feel far more at peace among techno legends like Nicole Moudaber and Dubfire, both of whom he’s remixed for.
At the beginning of 2020, Clarke also started his label, All We Have Is Now. It was a chance to broaden his work’s artistic range, soundscape, and mission. He told Gray Area in 2021, “I’m trying to write songs that have a bit of a meaning,” Clarke says of his tracks for All We Have Is Now, which is apparent in their more complex structure and nuanced approach.
Artists start labels to release their music without restriction, and Clarke pushes that concept to the limit. But, in truth, he was pushing that concept to the limit even before he had his label. The five tracks below demonstrate just how far.
1. Will Clarke & Dj Funk - Booty Percolatin’
Will Clarke was active in dance music for years before signing with Dirtybird and celebrated on Dirtybird for years before he released “Booty Percolatin’,” in 2016. However, this track defines his time as a part of the flock for multiple reasons.
First, it’s intoxicating in its simplicity. Clarke’s Dirtybird tracks were never too busy. Just pure, unfiltered grooviness, the way label boss Claude VonStroke intended.
Second, every Dirtybird DJ played this track at every Dirtybird function for years before it finally became an official release. Clearly, Clarke got tired of everyone asking for the track ID.
2. Will Clarke - Mercy
Green Velvet has always had a good relationship with Dirtybird. Other than Velvet’s personal relationship with Claude VonStroke that led to their collaborative project Get Real, Velvet’s label, Relief Records, has played host to numerous artists on the Dirtybird roster.
In 2018, Will Clarke shared his second release on Relief, an EP entitled Mercy. The title track from this release reveals Clark’s darker intentions.
Velvet has always made room for techno in his sets and on his label, and “Mercy” is just as much techno as it is house. The same raw grooves as Clarke’s previous releases, punctuated by eerie effects and unsettling yet soulful vocal samples.
3. Will Clarke - Mucaj
Moving into 2019, Clarke’s sights were set on even darker horizons with his debut EP on Truesoul, Nothing Is Forever. A rather apposite title, fans of Clarke’s early work would soon have to accept his evolving tastes.
Truesoul is the sister label of Adam Beyer’s famous techno imprint, Drumcode. While Drumcode is world-renowned for titanic kick drums and epic breakdowns, Truesoul is a space for more refined and melodic sounds.
Clarke fit the latter description perfectly with the Nothing Is Forever EP, and “Mucaj” is undoubtedly the EPs standout cut, complete with expanding astronomical synth lines.
4. Will Clarke - U Take Me Higher
Starting a label is a milestone for any artist, and Will Clarke honored this big step by producing a track that is undeniably him.
“U Take Me Higher” is the debut release from his label, All We Have Is Now, and all the different elements of previous tracks find equal balance on this single.
This track also goes deep into his history as an artist and human being, touching on addiction.
“My family-run drug and alcohol rehabs. And I’ve always been around addiction in my life through working at the rehabs for my parents. So, I wanted to give a little bit of a message about that,” Clarke said in his Gray Area Spotlight.
He goes on to say that the meaning could be about the euphoria or it could be about the escapism of taking drugs, but no matter how one person may interpret the meaning, the track started a new era of Clarke’s artistry where purpose was essential.
5. Alan T, Nicole Moudaber - The Volume (Will Clarke Remix)
Beyond his originals, Will Clarke has demonstrated the same level of adaptability in his remixes. He’s remixed Adam Beyer, Dubfire, and most recently, Nicole Moudaber, and all of those artists have one thing in common: they are techno.
Will Clarke has touched on techno in the past, but when he remixed Nicole Moudaber, techno’s queen of darkness, he didn’t just touch on techno. He went full throttle.