One of 2015’s best albums, Evangelist (Toydrum), the debut, and sadly only album from the duo’s side project.
The combined efforts of late singer-songwriter Gavin Clarke and Toydrum – James Griffiths and Pablo Clements, former members of trip-hop ensemble UNKLE resulted in Evangelist (Toydrum).
The album serves as an autobiographical swan song for Clarke. His raw, vulnerable, and occasionally disturbing vocals form the backbone of this concept album.
Strange and brooding, Evangelist blends trip-hop, krautrock, woozy folk, blues, gospel, dark electronica, and hypnotic psychedelia.
Gavin Clark: Songwriter
Clark worked extensively with director Shane Meadows, the director of “This Is England”. He composed critically acclaimed material, not only solo works but also with Sunhouse and folk group Clayhill.
But it’s his work with UNKLE that took him into new areas. This project and his resulting friendship with Clements and Griffiths led to this posthumous release.
Conceived with the Toydrum duo, Evangelist is a different beast to anything he had done before. A concept album loosely tracing the rise and fall of an evangelical preacher.
The project started in 2011 and, with Clark’s passing, became a mission to complete in his spirit. Loosely autobiographical and inspired by The Who’s Tommy, the album’s concept revolves around a preacher. His descent into drugs, vice, attempted redemption and ultimately, defeat.
However, following his death, the duo came to realize that Clark gave them everything they needed. Clements and Griffiths went back into the studio to ensure the album would see the light of day; a memorial to the singer and songwriter – a fitting testament to an overlooked and remarkable talent…
Posthumously and painstakingly, Clements and Griffiths built around the skeletal songs and demos created with Clark.
The result – a beguiling mix of acoustic and electronic psyche that also features Clark’s eldest son as a vocalist. It features composer Ludovico Einaudi on the track ‘Never Feel This Young’, and also sees Grinderman member and Bad Seed, Warren Ellis playing the viola on ‘I’m In Love Tonight’.
Evangelist (Toydrum) begins with a God-invoked drawl of “This is the world I created, I created life, I created life.” And it ends with the mostly acoustic ‘Whirlwind of Rubbish.’ The track gives the album it’s crowning moment of subtlety and the listener an insight into Clark’s compositional process.
Evangelist has its roots in the electronica and experimentation of UNKLE, though it goes far wider than that. There’s late-era Beatles on ‘Know One Will Ever Know’. Openers, ‘The World That I Created’ and ‘Spirit’ segue to create a brooding blend of heavy rhythms and distorted vocals as dark as anything on that side of the moon.
With an awesome sound to match its narrative sweep, the tracks veer from glam rock stomps to psychedelic haze-outs.. fire-and-brimstone roaring to aching acoustic despair. And yet, for all its grandeur, it’s still characterized by a spine-tingling immediacy.
Gavin Clark : Evangelist
It is mystifying and rather sad that Clark’s talent wasn’t more appreciated while he was still with us. But ‘Evangelist’ should ensure that a new audience becomes acquainted with one of the finest songwriters of modern times.
It’s a record that will initially and occasionally hurt. Most of the time though, it will raise the roof and take the listeners’ spirits with it.
Clements and Griffiths sculpted something truly special out of their final time with their friend. Clark passed away, arguably with his potential still to be fully realized.
Evangelist‘s greatest sadness lies in the fact that this can never be followed up or expanded upon.
But as farewells go it’s a strong-hearted goodbye and one that will last long in the memory.