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Album Review: Clock Opera – Venn

 
By on Wednesday, 8th March 2017 at 12:00 pm
 


Returning with only their second album in 8 years, Clock Opera have had a long time to piece together this sophomore effort, and it shows. It’s a well thought-out and implemented record that ties together the best in dark synthpop with a dash of indie. It must be said, you don’t get this vision immediately.

Opener ‘In Memory’ is a rather haunting track that doesn’t really go anywhere but is somehow still incredibly beautiful, particularly with singer Guy Connelly’s falsetto vocals above the darkened soundscape created. Fading into a purposeful ether, it’s an anomaly amongst the rest of the album and should be seen as more of a mood setter than an opening bold statement.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxRaD-8AHwg[/youtube]

Track two ‘Changeling’ is where you get a real idea for what you’re in for. Pulsating synthesisers ring around falsettos while guitars cut through in the chorus to bring you out of the trance that was created. At the halfway point of the track, life is given to the pace album with serious tempo being brought in, which prompts the music to take on a whole new life. ‘Closer’ continues building this image of the album by greeting us with abrasive guitar riffs, bounding drums and striking piano., Heading in the same direction as the opener to begin with, single ‘Whippoorwill’ takes a dramatic change of pace but soon turns into a dramatic pop chorus where layered vocals and sound erupts. Fading with a bit more warning in the form of an outro, as opposed to the prior tracks abrupt endings, it leads nicely into ‘Hear My Prayer’. Making for a nice halfway point, the track is more of a summary of what came before it, taking all the past components into a powerful and emotive track.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWL7MBPNfWE[/youtube]

Starting the second half where the emotional remains of ‘Hear My Prayer’ lie, ‘Ready Or Not’ really does beg its own question. Breaking in somewhat gently with a sparse canvas made up of an obnoxious synth sound, a timid beat and more trademark falsetto, it gradually builds up to a crescendo of falling vocal layers. While on the subject of vocals, ‘Dervish’ is a chance for Connelly to put his talents to work with a climbing range of his vocal abilities. A la Everything Everything, it’s a purposeful and affective juxtaposition of the ranges he can reach, one being acheievable and the other being tremendous highs we’ll never have a chance of attaining. Throughout the track, the vocals are the centerpiece, utilisng layers and ranges to build the song rather than instrumentation, which acts as a weight bearer.

After all the previous complexities, ‘Cat’s Eye’ goes for a more straight shot, with repetitive parts. It’s a welcomed break from the challenging listens before, but it’s nice to get back into the thick of it with ‘Tooth & Claw’. The song is all too happy to oblige, with a bare, emotive vocal performance that reaches new levels of falsetto while synthesisers dance around it, and the rhythm section keeps everyone’s feet firmly on the ground. As each chorus bursts into life, they gain momentum, making themselves more and more powerful, both emotionally and musically. ‘Tooth & Claw’ is a powerful track that’s simultaneously the shortest, it paves the wave for the ethereal finale of ‘When We Disappear’. Slowly building to an exotic crescendo at its end, the track does as its previous track ‘Hear My Prayer’, pulling its half into an epic conclusion.

‘Venn’ is a mixture and flurry of tracks that equally bind to form an album that stirs emotions you didn’t know existed. Taking you on a journey through the minds of Connelly and co., is an album that you should be giving your full attention in every respect.

8/10

The long-awaited sophomore album from Clock Opera, ‘Venn’, is out now on League of Imaginary Nations and !K7. To read more of TGTF’s coverage on Clock Opera, click here.

 

Clock Opera / February and March 2017 English Tour

 
By on Monday, 12th December 2016 at 9:00 am
 

Following the release of their second album ‘Venn’ in early February next year, Clock Opera – now a foursome – have announced a handful of English dates in late February and early March. These English shows precede a longer tour that follows on the Continent that begins at the end of March in Italy. Tickets to these shows in England are on sale now. ‘Venn’ will be released on the 10th of February 2017 on League of Imaginary Nations and !K7. You can read my review of single ‘Whippoorwill’ through here. More Clock Opera coverage on TGTF is this way.

Wednesday 22nd February 2017 – Cambridge Portland Arms
Thursday 23rd February 2017 – Bristol Louisiana
Wednesday 1st March 2017 – Manchester Night and Day
Thursday 2nd March 2017 – London Corsica Studios
Friday 3rd March 2017 – Brighton Hope and Ruin

 

Single Review: Clock Opera – Whippoorwill

 
By on Monday, 14th November 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

The whip-poor-will is a bird well known to those of us who live in the Eastern half of the United States, primarily for his distinctive, beautiful, haunting call. No less distinctive are the band whose single shares the name with this beloved bird. ‘Whippoorwill’ has been offered up as the first look and listen into Clock Opera’s second album, expected in early 2017. It’s been a long overdue reappearance, following the 2012 release of their debut ‘Ways to Forget’, which featured their then most recognisable songs including ‘A Piece of String’, famous for its engaging, percussive style live.

Interestingly, Clock Opera – now a four-piece with the addition of producer Nic Nell on keyboards and vocals – seem to have done a 180 on their new single. Its forlorn nature echoes its namesake’s call and according to group frontman Guy Connelly, this feeling of brooding and introspection was entirely intentional. Speaking about the album, he notes, “To be specific, the majority of the songs [on the new album] were inspired by a miscarriage. A lot of the others were driven by the fallout from it.” Connelly utilises falsetto in what begins as the regretful sighs of a man left behind following the dissolution of a relationship.

However, within the context of his explanation of the album’s primary inspiration, this initially comes across as not only heartfelt, but painfully cutting in its strong emotion. From the very beginning, Connelly tugs hard on our heartstrings: “there’s a hole in this house no fairground ride will fill / no time can kill / since you went away”. The rich tones of piano chords match well with a r&b, at times syncopated beat, which then gives way to a fuller, mainstream pop sound with some admirably timed bouncing blips from a synth.

The song appears to mirror the progression of real human emotion: as animals, we rarely stay in one state, and when we’re struggling with turmoil, in our state of confusion, we suffer highs and lows. The sound of Clock Opera mark 1 was very aggressive and in your face. It appears from ‘Whippoorwill’ that they’ve chosen to go in a more radio-friendly version, but the impact of the rest of ‘Venn’ remains to be seen.

8/10

Clock Opera’s newest single ‘Whippoorwill’ is out now via League of Imaginary Nations and !K7 . Watch the video for the single, by their guitarist and bassist Andy West, below. Their sophomore album ‘Venn’ is scheduled for release on the 10th of February 2017. For more of TGTF’s past coverage on Clock Opera, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUmwG_Lnar8[/youtube]

 

In the Post #151: Clock Opera return with new track ‘Changeling’ from forthcoming new album in 2016

 
By on Monday, 16th November 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Those who have known me for years are aware that I can be an insufferable sentimental git. I hold on to every last memory, good and bad. Last week, I had already formulated in my mind generally how this piece on Clock Opera was going to go. And then Friday night in Paris, the unspeakable happened.

Some people – the kind of people like my own mother who had quaked at the mere thought of me boarding a plane after 9/11, and every single time I’ve done it – are going to be too scared to go out in public, to go to a live show for quite some time. Maybe it will be for months, years, I don’t know. But the more I have read in the last 48 hours of the incredible humanity of those who survived the terrible goings-on in the Bataclan, the outpouring of love from the our whole music community to honour those we have lost, I don’t feel so ashamed of being that insufferable sentimental git at this very moment.

We – all of us – have suffered a great loss, beautiful lives have been cut short, and for what? It is impossible to comprehend through our grief, to make sense of what is truly senseless. But no matter where we are in our lives, whenever we are a party to sorrow, to trauma, we can go deep into our minds and our hearts, where the good memories live and will live on forever. We must do this now, in remembrance of those we’ve lost, many of whom who thought they were going out on a normal Friday night to enjoy live music at a gig, something that many of us do all the time and don’t think about too much, because we take it for granted that we will be safe.

Our lives have changed, yes. But we will keep going, keep living, and living our lives every day for those we have lost who cannot.

~~~

I have a fond memory of meeting Clock Opera in Liverpool 3 years ago, shortly after their debut album ‘Ways to Forget’ had been released on Island / Moshi Moshi. They were one of three bands playing the TGTF showcase we put on at the Arts Academy in May 2012, sandwiched in between Brighton’s Dear Prudence and Sydney, Australia’s The Temper Trap, the latter of whom were still running on the success of ‘Sweet Disposition’ and their debut album. It was a great night: the venue was rammed, the bands sounded incredible onstage and we had gobs of punters entering our lucky draw for a Clock Opera CD and a Temper Trap t-shirt.

I met the guys and welcomed them when they arrived at the venue, hours before the showcase was to start, laden down with all their gear. They were effusive in their praise of our Web site. I had a quite funny but brief conversation with frontman Guy Connelly about his epic beard, which I remember as if it was yesterday. I asked him if he would allow me to touch the famed beard; he laughed and said, “you don’t know how many people reach out and touch it *without* asking!” So I was looked upon as a friend from then on.

Clock Opera emerged in 2009, at an interesting time for British music. If you look at the BBC Sound of 2010 longlist, which appeared less than a year after I joined up here as USA Editor at TGTF, you’ll recognise a lot of names on there, when synth-led music and indie were kings as the new decade dawned. But you’ll also note most every artist or group on the list still standing has had to reinvent themselves or change significantly in the 5 years since those names were revealed.

The band went silent after the end of 2012, and I imagined they’d be back before I knew it, and with some smashing new single for us to sink our teeth into. Then a year went by…and while a year in band terms sometimes means musicians are taking a well-deserved rest or maybe simply just getting on with Real Life, relationships and families, I’d assumed after Connelly’s usually otherwise prolific remix well went dry and quiet, that would be the last we’d heard of them. Imagine how grateful I felt when early in November, new Clock Opera track ‘Changeling’ was released to the wild. Although they lost keyboardist Dan Armstrong last year, it sounds like time has been good to them, as it sounds like they haven’t lost their identity but instead have refined it, in a time in the music business when it’s uber important to distinguish your band and your sound from everyone else’s.

Unbeknownst to me, they were working on a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 to make enough money to record their second album. Luckily for us, the campaign’s target was reached in July, so this highly anticipated second outing is purported to be out next year. If ‘Changeling’ is indicative of Clock Opera 2.0, the exciting percussive nature of their music exemplified by their live tour de force ‘A Piece of String’ has been retained by the heavy, buzzy synth rhythm and the clanging bells. However, it appears they’ve ‘grown up’ in a way, choosing to go in a darker direction, the song described on the press release as “a mysterious, haunting hymn of loss and disbelief”. Not exactly the sweet-sounding, wistful yearnings heard on older single ‘Belongings’, is it?

As it appears that Delphic have disbanded and Bloc Party‘s return last month with ‘The Love Within’ is nothing but a whimper, there is a huge gap in the British market for an indie, rhythm-led synth group, and Clock Opera’s return couldn’t have been timed better. Roll on 2016!

7.5/10

Download ‘Changeling’ for your very own by signing up for the band’s mailing list here. Clock Opera will play their first show since their public return next Thursday, the 26th of November (seriously, why is everything happening on my birthday in the South of England?) at London Old Blue Last. For those of you penny pinchers, the show is free, so if you’re anywhere near the Capital, stop what you’re doing that evening and go. Then they’re straight off to Europe to fill the support slot of North East band Maximo Park on the Continent. For all our past coverage on Clock Opera on TGTF (essentially the previous chapter of the band of days gone by), go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2YPVRcpZqM[/youtube]

 

Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Friday, 21st December 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Another year, and another top 5 gigs by bands that should not be missed live. How odd that three of them came one after another, but that’s the cool thing about Washington DC. Except for December through the beginning of February (the dead of winter) and June through August (festival season), there is always a reasonably good selection of bands coming through here. But that hasn’t always been the case.

I am often asked on my travels why I became a music blogger, and the simple answer has always been this: when I started covering shows in March 2009, I was getting increasingly upset about how many bands (American or international) would skip Washington entirely, either in favour of going to Philadelphia instead or would only consider New York, or maybe Boston, as the only cities worthy on the East Coast for a tour stop. I have had the opportunity to meet so many bands in the last 3+ years that Washington DC has now become considered on the list of cities bands sincerely wish to play in – or on the list that bands say they will definitely pass through on their next headline tours of North America. To know that I have been involved in making this paradigm shift a reality means so much. It means that I have done something for the city I’ve called home all these years and more importantly, have exposed thousands of music fans from varying walks of life who either work, go to school, or pass through our fine city to incredible music.

All five bands whose gigs landed them in my top 5 gigs of 2012 are worth every red cent you can put forward to go see them, either in their own gig or at a festival in 2013. Here’s the list…

5. Ash‘s 20th anniversary tour at DC9 (Thursday 15th November 2012) – what a surreal experience, finally seeing Ash live, in one of the smallest places to see bands in Washington. Even more surreal was after, when I actually got to talk to all of them and Tim Wheeler said I was a more appropriate panelist for Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable than he was. (This made me smile.) The set itself was brilliantly hard rocky, much more so than I ever would have imagined.

4. TGTF’s stage at Liverpool Sound City 2012, starring the Temper Trap, Clock Opera and Dear Prudence Liverpool Academy of Arts (Friday 18th May 2012) – maybe this is cheating, choosing our own stage at Liverpool. But this night couldn’t have been any better, starring our friends since I took over as Editor of this Web site, the Temper Trap, our new friends from SXSW, Clock Opera, and a band from Brighton destined to bigger things, Dear Prudence. All we can say is THANK YOU to all the bands for making it such a memorable night and THANK YOU Sound City for letting us host this amazing stage.

3. Husky at Red Palace (Friday 17th November 2012) – it’s a sad day in Washington, as Red Palace, similar in intimate size to DC9, will be closing its doors at the end of 2012. But before then, I managed to catch the Melbourne band we befriended at this year’s Great Escape. Just check out this video from the show of the band performing an a capella version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Lover Lover Lover’ and you’ll understand why they’re so good live.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqF6k9afzeM[/youtube]

2. the Joy Formidable at St. Stephen’s Church (Saturday 10th November 2012) – the Welsh band have consistently placed in my top 5 gigs of the last 2 years; last year they were at #4 and in 2010, they were at #2. What made the difference and put them higher up this year? Seriously, how often do you see such a power house band in a space as small as a church’s rec room? (Well, it was a little bigger than that…but still.) Absolutely fabulous. And their new album ‘Wolf’s Law’ will be huge next year; just check out this live version of first single ‘Cholla’.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjwp3jV2PvM[/youtube]

1. Two Door Cinema Club at 9:30 Club (Tuesday 2nd October 2012) – I was having serious reservations about Two Door’s live show, or rather some of their less than nice fans, after seeing them in Baltimore in June and getting shoved – hard – out of our positions down the front. I almost swore I’d never see them again. But I’m glad I changed my mind.

What was the first date on the autumn 2012 North American tour to sell out? Washington DC, of course. There is still some confusion on whether or not Barack Obama is a fan, but one thing is clear: of all the bands that I’ve known and loved, I did right by Two Door Cinema Club – and helped them become the superstars that they’ve dreamt of being since they started as kids in grammar school. I used to be able to see them after shows and hang out with them, but even as those days are over, they’ve never forgotten me. They are true gents.

Honourable mentions:

St. Etienne at U Street Music Hall (Thursday 25th October 2012) – there’s something to be said for Sarah Cracknall, who may be over 40 but still rocks it out every night as if she was in her 20s.

Divine Fits at 9:30 Club (Thursday 18th October 2012) – it always feels incredibly validating when you see a ‘new’ band who hasn’t been touring much…and they turn out to be absolutely fantastic.

Keane with Mystery Jets at Strathmore Hall (Thursday 14th June 2012) – it’s effin’ Keane, for god’s sakes. And with Mystery Jets, who never tour in America! Win-win, really.

Paula and Karol at 93 Feet East in London (Tuesday 15th May 2012) – what do you do between music festivals? Go to a gig, of course. And at this one, I felt welcomed by the entire Polish population of London. What atmosphere.

First Aid Kit at Black Cat (Friday 30th March 2012) – this show was so spirited, the elder Soderberg lost her top right before the encore. Hardcore.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2012 so you can have some idea how difficult my job was to choose favourites for the top 5 list. The runner-up gigs are also marked.
Continue reading Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 

Video of the Moment #1010: Clock Opera

 
By on Thursday, 18th October 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

Clock Opera‘s new video for ‘The Lost Buoys’ (gotta love the play on words) stars Alun Armstrong, who I recognised from his role as Brian Lane in New Tricks. Like D.I. Lane on that show, his character in this promo also suffers from alcoholism, as you will see below.

The band appear at Oxford’s Gathering Festival on Saturday and begin a UK tour on Monday at Stoke Sugarmill. All the details are here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQSL3pbnZoE[/youtube]

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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