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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