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Alif Tree

Clockwork

(Compost; US: 3 Mar 2009; UK: 9 Feb 2009)

Clockwork is the fourth album from Frenchman Alif Tree, and his second for Compost following 2006’s well-received French Cuisine. This one is more “song-oriented” than anything Tree’s done before. Unfortunately, that means a “trip-hop” album-by-numbers. You get the requisite rotating cast of vocalists: the crooner, the chanteuse, and the gravelly-voiced eccentric. You get the thick beats, languid tempos, and subtle dub reggae and jazz influences. Everything’s very well-produced, mind, and there’s some mature sonic craftsmanship at work. But the songs just aren’t special enough to be timeless, leaving Clockwork as merely dated, offering little that wasn’t done better in 1994. Only the swampy, churning “Way Down South”, written by and starring legendary Memphis guitarist and one-time Tina Turner collaborator Tony Joe White, sounds fresh. Otherwise, the carefully-calculated Clockwork is too true to its title, a timekiller and little more.

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John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.


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21 Feb 2006
It is essentially that rarest of artifacts -- a splendid album that aspires to nothing more than creating a sustained mood through the application of superlative musicianship.
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