Unless you're a local or unreasonably well up on the Northern Irish music scene, you've probably never heard of Lisburn band Mojo Fury. Equally, you've probably never heard of their frontman Michael Mormecha, the man behind Clown Parlour. With any luck, things will soon change on that front, as the debut album 'The Sum of Sounds' is a beguiling mix of art-house theatricality and devious melodies that seep under your skin.
Beginning with a whirring, whining and almost entirely tuneless instrumental, first impressions of Clown Parlour are that of yet another "experimental" musician messing about with a laptop, but song by song, The Sum of Sounds reveals itself to be wonderfully twisted, inexorably dark, crawling with resentment, and, in general, more than a little f**ked up. Yes, in places The Sum of Sounds gets a bit self indulgent. Almost half the tracks here are little more than carefully arranged noises, but the songs that are here more than make up for it, often playing with and testing the boundaries of their pervasive melodies.
Single 'Stanley Kubrick' is a tremendous feat, eerily uniting a droning bass, military style drum rolls, unearthly strings, electropop synths and shouting voices, all the while churning out lyrical nuggets such as "The world it is what it eats and it ate a clockwork orange". Running a close second is the powerful 'Everyday', which builds minimal piano, futuristic effects, grizzly guitar and emotion packed vocals into one heck of a writhing climax. And once these potent songs win you over, the less conventional ones begin to reveal their idiosyncratic charms. 'Ryan's Pig Memorial', for example, feels like a walk through some sort of evil enchanted forest... With pigs in. It's so delightfully weird.
It's sometimes difficult to tell whether the ramshackle quality is an intentional extension of The Sum of Sounds' bizarre character or just the result of recording on a small budget. Either way, it hasn't done this record any harm, working to Mormecha's advantage in the same way that early Bright Eyes thrived on scratchy dissonance and hesitant vocals. Mormecha himself often chooses to speak, rather than sing, in a monotone croak that's as sinister as the songs it's part of.
Despite the inclusion of several ill-conceived experiments, and perhaps even because of them, The Sum of Sounds is a most intriguing prospect, and easily one of the most original and inventive Irish albums of 2010. Best of all, it's totally free so if you don't agree, you'll be none the worse off.
The Sum of Sounds is available as a free download from clownparlour.bandcamp.com