Beneva vs. Clark Nova: Sombunall
Fenêtre Records

That Beneva vs. Clark Nova names one of Sombunall's songs “Institute Benjamenta” is certainly telling, as Frank Benjamin Finger (Beneva) and Rudi Simmons (Clark Nova) share with film-makers The Brothers Quay and composer Lech Jankowski an affinity for wildly imaginative and off-the-wall eccentricity. Last summer's three-inch Flotsam/Jetsam release was certainly a credible enough coming-out but it hardly hinted at just how splendid the group's full-length debut would be. Its audacious material bursts with activity and imagination, and instrumentally Beneva vs. Clark Nova perpetuates the open-ended tradition of groups such as Múm where every possible sound—natural and artificial—is fodder for the group's idiosyncratic music-making (in fact, “I Suppose She Was Telepathic,” with its clicking beats and melodica, could easily pass for a song by the Icelandic outfit). Shape-shifting and mercurial, Sombunall includes a dozen constantly flickering snapshots that rarely settle into any one place for longer than a moment or two.

In “I'm Twins (the Babies Said),” glitch-laden woodwinds, piano and banjo swell into a dizzying phantasmagoria. “88 Kilos of Excrement” presents a dense firestorm of squirrelly beats, shredded voices, and strings. “Thora's Inferno” channel-surfs through episodes of mangled voices that resemble braying cuckoo clocks and scratchy beats that rumble and clatter. The addition of Norwegian vocalist Therese Aune to “His Freefloating Affection” may remind some listeners of Psapp, especially when glockenspiels and a flotilla of percussive noises spill over the song's arresting melodies. “Poligraph Polygraphikov” takes the listener on a rollicking roller-coaster ride before “Nothing; Only Worthwhile” closes the album in a sparkling and high-spirited folk romp. To top it off, the arresting cover photo, Sandy Skoglund's “Babies at Paradise Pond,” provides that rare instance when visual presentation dovetails perfectly with musical content.

March 2008