Casiotone bonkersness, artsy intentions, aSunderland indie-elite line up … yes, FieldMusic are back. Or one of them, anyway, under thename School of Language. The rest of the collective isin the wings, shoring up the project and providing thebedroom production.
Field Music – one of last year’s most interestingand unrelentingly indie of bands – have not gone away,you understand, but their individual members have gonesolo(ish), and this is the first of several promisedefforts from their component parts – in this caseDavid Brewis. In place of his brother Peter and AndrewMoore, this time he’s brought along a variety of localindie pop luminaries including Barry Hyde and DavidCraig of Futureheads and Kenikie’s Marie(Du Santiago) Nixon to help him out.
And they get off to a good start. Rockist part 1 isa robotic lo-fi synth fest that recalls the same bitsof Denim you can hear in Brewis’s previousofferings. With Rockist part 2, the same tune goesindustrial, as if the little toy robot that could haswandered into the steelworks to have its innocencestripped away and replaced by heavy guitars andfactory crashes.
The result is playful, dark, optimistic anddoom-laden all at once, firmly ensconced in a musicalalmost-genre Northern bands such as Maximo Parkand The Human League have long made their own,all poptastic on the surface but with something muchdeeper behind it. This is helped in no small part bythe lyrics – which are sometimes discernible,sometimes just loops used as another instrument.
In places, the album is lush, recalling theheaviness of 70s prog-pop such as FleetwoodMac, particularly on middle tracks Keep Your Waterand Marine Life; a couple of tracks on, and you canhear the influence of Wings in the mix too. Thevaried styles and experimental feel of Sea From Shoreworks well, holding your interest from one track tothe next as it darts through genres and music history,taking the best bits and remoulding them intosomething new.
All in all, Sea From Shore sounds enough like FieldMusic that it sweetens the bitter pill of that band’s(semi)-demise. Its enduring cleverness is that itsbeats and harmonies get more optimistic and upliftingas the album progresses. By the time you reach theend, and parts 3 and 4 of the Rockist quartet, there’sa sense of hope, as if the crashing darkness of part 2can be escaped. The music has become more organic, thelittle robot has gained a human voice and a heart andhas ventured out of the cold, dark city to a look fora lovely summer festival at which to have his nextadventure.
Pretentious? Mais oui, mes amis, but with aself-knowing quality that means you’ll let it off.Make two beautiful albums, break up, and leave astring of clever solo projects behind you. Other bandstake note: it’s a winning formula.