Clock Opera

Clock Opera – Venn (!K7)

It would be fair to say that Guy Connelly knows a thing or two about how damaging it can be for bands to have to deal with endless red tape. Venn, Clock Opera‘s overdue second LP and the product of a successful crowdfunding campaign, was completed early last year, but was put on ice while Connelly and his cohorts shopped it around to labels. They’re lucky they found a platform: Connelly’s previous band, The Corrections (FKA The Fallout Trust) came undone after major-label infighting meant that their 2008 album Repeat After Me sank without a trace after months of delays.

It was feared the same might happen to Clock Opera after keyboardist Dan Armstrong left before the band started work on what would become Venn, but he was ably replaced by Nic Nell (Casually Here/Rainer), joining Connelly (vocals/guitar/samples), Andy West (bass/guitar) and Che Albrighton (drums) as part of a band that was experiencing considerable personal and emotional strife at the time. The turmoil in question inspired much of the new material, driven by Connelly’s relationship breaking down after a miscarriage.

Venn is therefore leagues away from the starry-eyed optimism of 2012 debut LP Ways to Forget, the band’s music going down a noticeably darker path in keeping with its subject matter. The past five years haven’t diluted the four-piece’s melodic abilities in the slightest, though; opener ‘In Memory‘ is a grandiose, mid-tempo reintroduction to the band’s self-styled, sample-heavy ‘chop-pop’, with Connelly’s plaintive falsetto questioning (“Do you want me as I was? / Do I still do the things that made you fall in love?“) putting the spotlight on his decaying relationship with his significant other and holding nothing back.

The catharsis running through the album’s 10 tracks acts as its driving force, tying everything together even as the band experiment with different musical styles. ‘Changeling‘ is built around an ominous loop of clanging bells, with Albrighton’s punchy drumming and West’s low-end heft adding to the sense of panicked frustration that rushes the track along, bringing a powerful chorus along for the ride. Lead single ‘Whippoorwill‘, meanwhile, is a ruminative four minutes that gradually builds to a forceful payoff, layers of melody stacked on top of each other to near-overwhelming effect.

The stark album artwork and the painful circumstances surrounding the record’s birth may seem off-putting (or flat-out unwelcoming) at first, but appearances can be deceiving. ‘Closer‘ and ‘Cat’s Eye‘ serve as obvious entry points for the uninitiated; the former’s guitar-squall hook and biting lyric single it out as an early album highlight, while the latter brings to mind the brighter elements of previous material – both have choruses that might need to be surgically removed from your head if you’re not careful. Other songs will require a little more work on the listener’s behalf; in particular, the likes of ‘Ready or Not‘ and ‘Dervish‘ may not have the expected impact on first listen, but Venn isn’t the sort of album where everything clicks right away.

As opposed to Ways to Forget, where 60% of the album ended up as singles, its follow-up is a much more subtle creation that definitely deserves to be filed under ‘grower, not shower’. As clichéd as it might sound, this is their difficult second album (owing to the circumstances of its creation more than anything else), but what Venn may lack in immediacy – at least to the casual ear – it makes up for in depth and sheer replay value. Red tape be damned: Clock Opera are back, and their maturation is something to behold.

Venn is out now through !K7.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.