Take equal parts Beefheart, Zappa, Henry Cow, and oompah music, and you might begin to get something close to Perhaps Contraption. This UK collective returns after a long quiet period with the release of Mud Belief, their first album in four years. Led by Squier Squier on vocals, guitars, flute, and piccolo, the band comprises eight additional players, all but one contributing vocals, and all but two playing some form of brass or woodwind. The result is something between a twisted marching band and art rock.
Many of the twelve tracks on Mud Belief provide angular but catchy horn-driven rhythms, as well as multi-part singing. The first three tracks, I am I, Droplets / Molecules, and Lay Low are prime examples the band’s vocal and horn-heavy approach – and are pure joy. After these, the outside nature of the compositions is blended with a more straight-forward approach for a while, though it would be hard to to category anything on the album as “mainstream.” Later tracks take on a more avant direction once again.
Comparisons? That’s a tough one. Aside from the three possible influences above, one can hear strains of Charming Hostess, Sufjan Stevens, and Squonk Opera. Intentional? Probably not. Ultimately, nobody sounds like Perhaps Contraption. And that is a significant part of their singular charm.