Painstakingly crafted, cerebral pop.
Label: Memphis Industries
Released: 2nd February 2018
It’s been 13 years since Field Music’s self-titled debut appeared: a neat, geometric set marrying precision-tooled harmonies and sparse post-punk, expertly assembled for the most part by two brothers, Peter and David Brewis. Four albums have followed since, among solo digressions, soundtracks and collaborations, each seeming to bring players into the fold, the result less band now than extended family, or the centre of operations for a north-eastern powerhouse of painstakingly crafted, cerebral pop.
‘Open Here’ is a smaller, shorter album than the grand, Prince-approved ‘Commontime’, in much the same way as ‘Plumb’ (possibly their very best album) followed the sprawling ‘(Measure)’ (also possibly their very best album) in double-concentrated form. But it’s a wide open one, with the ambition and scope to tackle themes large – the unavoidable developments on both sides of the Atlantic since ‘Commontime’ appeared in February 2016 (‘Checking On A Message’) – and small. The gleeful funk of ‘No King No Princess’ assures David’s son and daughter that they can “play with what you want and … dress up how you want” – gender stereotypes be damned – while ‘Daylight Saving’ is a wistful wish to reclaim as a couple the hours spent as parents.
And it’s musically open too, with a supporting cast taking in strings, piccolo, flugelhorn and flute (the knotty, busy riffs on ‘Time In Joy’ are a joy in themselves), and, particularly, the harmonies of the Cornshed Sisters, and Pete Fraser’s saxes – the grinding baritone driving the elastic ‘Share A Pillow’ or ‘Daylight Saving’’s reflective, sympathetic solo. It all culminates in the glorious finale, ‘Find A Way To Keep Me’, awash with cascading strings, flutes and trumpets.
But it’s not all quite so busy. Appearing last November, the single ‘Count It Up’ is one of the sparsest, and best, things here, beginning with a skeletal frame of synths and drums – often almost a lead instrument with the Brewises – and nailing on a plea to add up all the things we should be grateful for: holidays, work, drinkable water… (“pounds and pennies aren’t the only kind of capital”, after all). 13 years on, it’s as clear as ever that Field Music should be somewhere near the top of that list. Rob Mesure