Melancholic techno and old-fashioned storytelling make for to a sparkling debut album
Narrative concerns are what inform Clockwork’s debut album. The title is an acronym for ‘Based On A True Story’ and the tale is of Italian duo Francesco Leali and Federico Maccheron, and their rather superb debut album.
Musically, they build from the low-end up. Over an ever-present comfort blanket of bass comes pulsing deep house, shuffling judder-beats, lovelorn electronicky vocals and subterranean techno. It’s not so much genre hopping as genre massage: like John Talabot, these guys set out to annex territory somewhere between the woozy, enveloping throb of bass music, faded glitterball disco and the discipline of Berghain, and they do it not by launching an assault on our sonic sensibilities – these are by no means untested waters we’re talking here – but by mastering the application of mood and emotion. Even when the BPMs rise, the mood stays in a minor key; what binds the album is a sense of melancholy, of empty, long-abandoned spaces surrendering their secrets.
‘First Floor’, then, is the prologue in the notional narrative here, and by God it’s lovely: bubbling 303, a fantastically decayed, bounced-down sound, and echoing ‘Coldest Season’ chords that reverb into infinity. Vocals from Chasing Kurt give ‘Running Searching’ a soulful bent as well as setting the tone, alternating a bruised, heart-on-sleeve sensibility with darker, more soundtrack-orientated pieces. ‘Subterfuge’, in particular, uses vocal samples to chill the blood, while the use of found sound throughout is positively disorientating: clanging chains become manic typewriters on ‘Hidden Spectator’ – or is it the other way around?
Yes, the inevitable debt to Burial is occasionally overplayed. Yes, maybe that exquisite melancholy occasionally tips into melodrama. Nobody’s saying this is perfect – but for wounded souls in need of musical balm, it’s close.