Guy Connelly, the man behind Clock Opera, has already received acclaim for his work as a remixer, reworking the likes of Everything Everything, Metronomy, and Feist to great effect. But with Ways To Forget he's no longer striking out alone, having expanded the project into a four-piece band.
The origins of Clock Opera as a one-man project feel pretty evident on the likes of 'A Piece Of String' and 'Fail Better', which feel like they could conceivably have been created with judicious use of programming and looping pedals. Not that I wish to diminish their effectiveness in any way - the meticulous construction and mesmeric loops make these songs fresh and compelling. It's an interesting contrast to the very human emotions that are present in the lyrics - 'A Piece Of String' tackles the theme of dependance, while 'Fail Better' delivers a message of encouragement.
In other instances, more direct comparisons to other artists allow us to envision Clock Opera as the fully-fledged band they now are. 'Once And For All' begins with a propulsive keyboard riff before flourishing into something that sounds a bit like Wild Beasts gone unashamedly disco, while 'The Lost Buoys' could possibly be one of Coldplay's more adventurous moments, particularly the Chris Martin aping "oh-oh-oh"s in the chorus.
It's a very current cliché to compare electronic music to video game soundtracks, but on the evidence of 'Man Made', Sega should be signing Connelly on as the composer for the next Sonic The Hedgehog game. (Hey, if HEALTH can do it for Max Payne 3...) If moderately obsolete indie references are more your bag, Connelly's vocal on the track channels now-defunct duo To My Boy. I'm probably making out that I think the track is rubbish, which couldn't be further from the truth - it's absolutely one of the album's highlights.
By contrast, another of the album's greatest moments its most organic sounding track - 'Belongings' builds itself on twinkling pianos and hushed vocals, only breaking out a playful synth line towards the very end of the song. It's also got one of the record's most touching themes, pondering the weight of both physical and emotional baggage. Another slice of organic beauty comes with 'Move To The Mountains' - aside from its opening piano loops, it builds to its joyous crescendo in a pleasingly natural way.
The record does threaten to veer off track at times, however. 'Lesson No. 7' teeters on the brink of being overly melodramatic before its muscular bassline knocks it into shape, while 'White Noise' meanders aimlessly in a formless electronic haze until a cheery synthesiser swoops in to rescue it. On the other hand, the quiet, faintly menacing revolutionary feel of '11th Hour' seems like it shouldn't really work - but the band somehow pull it off, thanks to the contrast provided by the track's urgent latter third.
Overall, Ways To Forget is a solid, often intriguing record that marks Clock Opera's transition to a full-band format as a success. Just as well really, as I think the world can do without making any puerile puns based on the band's name - here's to the continued usage of the letter 'l', then.