Review: Clockwork Orchestra – Friends Without Names

Bedroom recording has often been considered in the context of democratising the art of music creation, but Friends Without Names really made me consider darker consequences of allowing virtually anyone to cast their imagined fantasies into the sonic realm. The album paints the artistic persona of Paul Mangan as someone who not only records in his bedroom, but lives a life imprisoned within it; a childish creativity bent into funny shapes after years spent boring into colourful clown wallpaper, or a garish make-believe theme park crafted from cardboard and clumsily applied primary colours. Through bedroom recording, certain voices are granted a mode of transmission previously reserved for those that actually left the house.

So what do we actually have here? Flimsy drum machines, primitive synthesiser MIDI presets, vocals mumbled into a cheap microphone, arranged into poetic, pocket-sized chamber pop, Disney Waltzes and notably grittier blasts of synthetic hard rock. The intricate arrangements of arpeggiation and fluidly unravelling melody hint towards intentions far beyond the means of their realisation, which, of course, only empowers the record’s child-like sense of a world beyond corporeal reach. At times I am reminded of the Nintendo platformer soundtracks of Gangpol & Mit; at other points, Matthew Friedberger’s lo-fi Parisian nightmare of Matricidal Sons Of Bitches – it’s a musical drawn in crayon, or a modernised Medieval opera for loo-roll swords and cereal box crowns.