It's grey out, and hot, that close heat that imparts no warmth but brings forth an ocean of reeking, salty ooze from your pores. The clouds look solid and impossibly dense and heavy, igneous rock as portrayed by gases. The suggestion of humming. It's going to rain soon. It will rain hard.

I am sat at my kitchen table, contemplating smoking. There's a song I've been meaning to hear, so I put in headphones, thinking little of it, and press play.

For a few minutes, I am no longer in the room. I am held immobile, carried on an insistent, doped-up drone, which sucks me inexorably into this scene in Lock Stock, Eddie stumbling away from Harry's poker game, beaten, fucked, Iggy yelling "now I wanna be your dog" in our ears. All this, despite the song owing a distinct debt to Autolux (like a bunch of its Sonic Anhedonic brethren, actually), a band wholly unlikely to ever make it onto the soundtrack of a Guy Richie film. There's a desperate, broken chorus, something about holding down the line and shaking up the night, getting high, some semi-pissed guitar grumble, throaty like coffee grounds in a garbage disposal. It's one of the best songs I think I've heard this year.

This thing, this 'music', sometimes it's most powerful when it dredges up images of something else. Which is what I think first drew me to 'I'm…Jesuschristmaam', lead track from Icecapades, Oliver Newton (he of Yndi Halda, Shoes and Socks Off, Bermuda Ern, etc etc etc)'s first full length as the mysteriously-monikered Lunchtime Sardine Club. After that deadbeat, junk-eyed juggernaut, flanked by the equally-dirgey 'Charon and the Boxer' and the sweet/sour snippet of 'Two and Three', it can be tempting to start imagining Icecapades in the vein of something like labelmate Chalk (albeit more fleshed out), a downcast folk record built on bad times and a well-played set of Elliott Smith albums. But really, rather than straight sadness, it's that conjuring of imagery that Newton plies his trade in here, which he does by peppering the album with found sound, snatches of forgotten chatter, unexpected sonic curios. One minute, Newton might deign to play us a song, but the next, we're evesdropping on an anonymous conversation about Christmas presents.

And so, toeing the imagery-line, I've come to associate Icecapades with Doc's lab in Cannery Row, the aural equivalent of those rows of dusty jars, rockpool oddities pickled in formaldehyde, gramophone music from another room. There's a press shot of Newton knocking around, sou'wester-clad on a grey Brighton beach, grinning and holding a boom mic, and this works for me, the man as an adventurer in sound. Icecapades begins with traffic rush and fluttering woodwinds that give way to Newton's strum on 'Charon', which morphs from forlorn acoustica to a threatening, cyclical grind that recalls Midlake at their toothiest. The drums on 'Charon' are a dusty trap set, but by 'Old Truths, Rare Grooves', they're soaked in unexpected reverb, and see the song transcending its lineage (M. Ward's 'Poison Cup' by way of Wilco's 'Deeper Down') and exploding into a kaleidoscopic, glittering jam. On 'Rumours' perfect pop, they're bitcrushed and crackling, foil to Newton's foregrounded vocal singing inscrutably of Jesus, jetplanes, lighthouses, and sea-birds. By the time 'Quesadillas' rolls around, though, he's shrouded his words in effects, and here, yes, Icecapades weighs heavy with Smith's ghost, transplanted from Portland back to Texas, floating over border towns, soundtracking scenes from Cormac McCarthy novels.

The synergy of song and sound doesn't always work. While Newton's writing and arrangements can flash unnervingly bright amidst the debris of his samples (see the way 'I'm…Jesuschristmaam' rears its sludgy maw from child talk and birdsong, for example), the latter half of Icecapades can tend to lag. '808' suffers from a lack of instrumental colour, choosing to stay earthbound where a burst of warm overdrive might have propelled it skyward, while 'Jack Rabbits' flounders in a murky slime, all texture and little tune. This lack of second-half standouts means that the inclusion here of minute-long mood pieces like 'Four and Five' can feel baffling, even wilfully difficult, where in the record's earlier moments they contribute so importantly to its character. So Icecapades is not perfect, no, but of course, it never had to be. There are science and poetry both here, and while some of Newton's forays into weirdness don't work as well as others, when they come off, they can be breathtaking. Whichever course the man decides to strike out on next, I'll be paying attention.