Momus: Joemus
American Patchwork

As its title suggests, Joemus is the collaborative spawn of long-standing electronic provocateur Momus (real name Nick Currie) and Joe Howe, a young Glasgow-based breakcore musician whose cover of Bowie's “Ashes to Ashes” for the recent Recovery release prompted Currie to bring him on board (the two first worked over the internet and then convened in Berlin for several weeks to fine-tune the results). Imagine hyperactive and excessively fertile imaginations let loose on an electronic toolbox and beat-up arcade gear and the twisted and unhinged Joemus might be the result. It's a fifteen-song grab-bag of radically contrasting styles that features crooned ballads, twisted vaudevillian settings, hot-wired glitch-pop, and seemingly everything in between.

Momus squeezes so many ideas into a three-minute song, one is left dizzy and disoriented, something never more apparent than in the wacky, roller-coaster glitch-pop of the opener “Birocracy.” Beamed in from another galaxy altogether, “Widow Twanky” follows with a poisoned take on MOR balladry featuring a quivering falsetto in the lead role (imagine Frank Sinatra exhumed and propped up in front of a microphone for one last saloon song). While that warped approach to balladry carries over into a cover version of Ryuichi Sakamoto's “Thatness and Thereness,” “The Next Time” and “The Man You'll Never Be” deliver their lilting melodies in seemingly straight-faced manner, with Currie's soft vocal surrounded by acoustic guitars, acoustic bass, drums, electric piano, and strings (a style the weepy closer “The Vaudevillian” takes to the extreme). More often than not, however, Momus emphasizes off-kilter lunacy, such as that found in “Jahwise Hammer of the Babylon King,” an agitated patchwork of arcade synth melodies and jabbering beats with Currie's multi-layered crooning the song's stabilizing element. Based on Washington Irving's “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “Ichabod Crane” riffs on early electro-punk with distorted vocals strewn over the squeal of raw electro melodies, while “Dracula,” a spoken-word duet between Currie and Kyoka Kyoka, opts for over-the-top drama in its smattering of acoustic guitar stabs, synth flares, and explosive thunderclaps. The album's a wild and eccentric ride, and clearly not one intended to be to everyone's taste.

January 2009