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Anti-Clockwise - Artificial Light

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Artist: Anti-Clockwise

Album: Artificial Light

Label: 3 Beads of Sweat

Review date: Feb. 19, 2006

We all make the best of what we’re born with. There’s a lot that Anti-Clockwise’s Brian Crook (also of the Renderers, Bible Black, Terminals, Scorched Earth Policy, and Flies Inside the Sun) can’t sing with his death’s rattle of a voice. Give him sweet lullabies, amorous entreaties, or operatic arias, and they’ll still sound like a man’s last cries as the sharks pull him under. So on Artificial Light he wisely sticks to tales of desperation, depression, and dark deeds with names like “The Gothic Apparition,” “Ashes of Roses,” and “Ghosting,” where his cracked moan is an asset.

Crook was also born with the right fingers and wiring to be a guitar hero. This record overflows with excellent playing, from the eerie slide licks on the title track and overdriven power chords on “Eye of the Driver” to “Gothic’s” sullen acoustic strumming. He’s an absurdly under-recognized player, most likely because he’s only toured twice outside his native New Zealand in a career that’s spanned twenty-odd years, but also because he’s the kind of player who puts the music first. Even recording solo, as he does here, he indulges his virtuosity as much in accompaniment; for example, he suspends just the right corroded chords between his voice and the writhing bed of synth wiggles and drum-machine shuffles on “Where This Highway Takes Me.”

In the past Crook’s song-writing has occasionally lapsed into monochrome bleakness – see his last solo outing, recorded four years back under the name Bible Black – but here he (ahem) renders different shades of darkness by framing them with sufficiently varied arrangements to sustain interest from beginning to end. The only flaw is the drum programming; implacable and unwavering, one sometimes wishes for more humanly imperfect tempos.

Crook’s kept a low profile for several years. This record, released in tandem with Maryrose Crook’s Ghost of our Vegas Lives (which is effectively a Renderers record except that Brian doesn’t sing), is a highly welcome return.

By Bill Meyer

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