If the word clutter evokes the notion of a copious mess, its use in the moniker of Toronto-based Rob Clutton’s quartet The Cluttertones—Lina Allemano (trumpet), Clutton (bass), Tim Posgate (banjo and guitar) and Ryan Driver (synthesizer, piano, voice)—suggests more of a daydreamy disarray. And, indeed, the group’s loose, quizzical playing is as evocative as it is heterogeneously odd.
The compositions on Ordinary Joy manage coherence without necessarily giving sway to conventional notions of seamlessness. In fact, many of the changes that occur in Clutton’s work are well-placed non sequiturs, moments where it's as though the piece seems to decide for itself to go elsewhere. The disarming ballad “Lion And Ant,” for instance, begins with a single sung verse that might harken back to Driver’s work in Yhe Silt, and follows with a series of instrumental solos, culminating in everything slimming down to just the piano, which grows increasingly unhinged and abstract. Other tracks often softly land somewhere tentative, resuming nonchalantly in a location seemingly on the opposite side of the piece's musical world. 
The band’s overall sound sits within the fissures between several discernible idioms —jazz, folk, abstract free improvisation, and chamber composition—with an inconspicuous and strangely elegant awkwardness that might recall some of Peter Zummo’s output. The candid spaciousness and corrugated melodic sense, though, may also suggest a psychedelic take on Christian Wolff.   
Each group member also has such a distinct voice that it frequently creates alarming juxtapositions.  A stray sinew of Posgate’s rockish lyricism juts out of a warm neon coo of the synthesizer. Clutton will sometimes maintain some semblance of a steady walking bass amidst a froth of other activity.  Allemano employs her enviable command of the trumpet equally for jazzish phrasing and pure tones or textures—sometimes blending, other times contrasting.  Driver's vocal delivery is more varied than ever, ranging from distended falsetto to delicate intonation.
The Cluttertones trade in a sort of weirdness and beauty you’re very unlikely to have encountered before—even if you’re familiar with its constituents’ back catalogues. Ordinary Joy feels elusive and intangible at first, leaving the listener groping for syntax. One’s second listen, however, yields an impression of warm familiarity, albeit with no shortage of tangles and kinks. 
FYI: Read about the Toronto label Healing Power Records in the Spring 2014 issue (#118).