Review: Friends Without Names

Front Cover to Friends Without NamesClockwork Orchestra is the project of Paul Mangan from Ireland, and he’s just released his first album for White Label Records, Friends Without Names digitally and a CD edition will follow on Guy Fawkes Day.  I don’t think the date being Guy Fawkes Day has anything to do with anything, but how many dates are there that have a nifty rhyme that go along with them?  

Friends Without Names is very synth-based; there are some really cool chiptune sounds mixed in with more traditional keyboard sounds.  The likely single is “Zebedee”, a fast-driving groove that gives the album its title.  It’s definitely my favorite track of the album — though a little different than many of the other tracks, which are generally a bit lower-key.  In a way, some of it reminds me of Princess Chelsea, whom we’ve already covered at Kittysneezes.  Probably the other touchstone I hear in here is Cardiacs — and, yes, I realize how little sense it makes to say “it’s kind of like Princess Chelsea and Cardiacs”.  But it does!  And that’s definitely a good thing.  Maybe a little bit of Momus, too… which I guess just makes that particular comparison even more confusing.

I don’t know if Mangan’s a Cardiacs fan (or Princess Chelsea or Momus fan, for that matter), but his listed influences (Eno, Sparks, the Residents, Roxy Music, the Stranglers and Joe Meek to name but a few) are a pretty high-quality group of people — and all people I can kind of hear in Friends Without Names.

Some of the synth sounds are a little too digital-sounding for my tastes — I do tend to the more analog side of the synth spectrum — but the bleeps and bloops of some of the 8-bit sounds (and “Black Ice” has quite a lot of them to its definite benefit!)  in the mix make them go down a bit easier. Don’t be confused, though — Clockwork Orchestra is definitely not a chiptune band; the video-game-esque sounds are not the point or draw, but just another texture used.  The sounds are in service of well-written and sung pop songs.  I really enjoy this album — it’s a mellow listen, but mellow is sometimes quite nice, and Paul Mangan’s stuff is very quite nice.

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