HOMELIFE Cho Cho (Madwaltz)

Some old cliché concerning the assessment of books by the pictures on their covers might be appropriate here. When this arrived in a crowded Jiffy bag from Kev I took one look at the booklet photo – at a guess, a moustachioed Mexican character in a laws-of-physics-bendingly large hat – and rumbled Homelife as the first of probably too many bands riding in on the tails of Gomez’s (much deserved) dusty-booted success: one band of students blending tales of the old South with Grateful Dead jamming chops is perfectly acceptable, but if it starts a trend…

Naturally, Homelife sound absolutely nothing like that. They’re a collective based around the considerable talents of ex-members of Manchester band Yargo (who, if memory serves, were into a dub/reggae thing) Paddy Steer (bass, double bass, keyboards, melodica, banjo, glockenspiel, programming, percussion, saw, jew’s harp, acme duck whistle, stylophone) and Tony Burnside (guitars, keyboards, humming, glockenspiel, percussion, banjo, woo, harmonium). Notable but unobtrusive guests include 808 State’s Graham Massey (playing clarinets, oboe and saxophone, of all things), Justin Robertson of Lionrock, singer Carmel and New FADS percussionist Icarus Wilson Wright. Vocals on five of the 11 tracks are handled by one Faron Brooks, apparently best known for writing and performing the theme tune to the children’s’ television programme "Why Don’t You?" at the tender age of 11!

But where is "Cho Cho" really at? All over the place might be the simplest answer: string and brass sections collide with drum and bass loops and massed ranks of acoustic guitars, along with the odd outbreak of hip-hop scratching, found sounds and sampled dialogue weirdness, with even the occasional song here and there. Imagine Beck meeting Massive Attack and getting Finlay Quaye to help out on some sublimely chilled and mellow film soundtrack music, a kind of gentle but diverting head movie for the ears. You really don’t know what trickery Homelife will play next. Concentrate too hard on the first few spins and you may end up merely confused; give "Cho Cho" the repeated listenings it deserves, or even just allow it to burble away in the background for a while and its considerable charms will sneak up and ensnare you. It’s a fine album, and an object lesson in how to throw everything and the kitchen sink into your music without it turning into a crowded, swamp-like mess.