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"Field Music (Measure)"

Field Music – Field Music (Measure)
24 February 2010, 12:00 Written by Natalia Raha

Sunderland’s Field Music have been dabbling with career suicide for quite a few years now. After 2007s outstanding Tones of Town, the then-3-piece nearly imploded whilst touring the US, calling their hiatus. David and Peter Brewis (co-frontmen and brothers) saw the following year through with records under the monikers of School of Language and The Week That Was respectively – they pretty much never left us.

Having always found their stride in the studio, Field Music had to return with a double album. Quality songwriting or a lack of ideas having never been an issue, Field Music (Measure) sees the band testing just how far they can stretch their abilities. The ‘70s influences are blatant, right down to the title – a homage to Peter Gabriel. Added to those signature vocal harmonies with hints of Bowie, and the guitar-riff-driven first disc gives a large nod to Led Zeppelin – without imitating the chaos of the School of Language LP. ‘In The Mirror’s opening fifteen seconds feel unsettled, before guitar and bass sprawl over a repetitive piano, building something wonderfully nervous around David’s self-deprecating vocal croon – “I wish I could change and make new rules, and love myself better”. The first disc keeps up its pace: ‘Each Time Is A New Time’ is littered with hooks whilst ‘Measure’s jerky string core draws into the band’s signature charm; there’s never a moment spare across three minutes of pouring drum rhythms, melodies and hand-claps. Long lost prog anthem traits sweep over the sublime ‘Lights Up’ and the big riffs keep up (thankfully never straying into the ridiculous) until ‘You and I’s steady-beat lulls the first half to a close.

The second disc bares a sibling resemblance to the first – you’re familiar with the traits, but there’s something more to it. The sparse verses of ‘Curves Of The Needle’ are delicately precise, acoustic guitars and clever percussion are at the core of ‘Choosing Numbers’, with a hint of violin and a short foray into a big moment. ‘Precious Plans’ is the perfect momentarily quieter stand-out track, with two chords draped in stereo across a flourishing acoustic guitar, strings weaving as it grows into it’s brief finale. There are trademark Field Music tunes thrown in, ‘Share The Words’ a particular highlight amid the found-sound cycle of the records final four tracks: lone strings segueing into piano into band-interludes, with that precise use of space and sparsity tying it all together.

So many bands stumble with self-indulgence on doing the double album, but Field Music just pull it off. Considering their first two records clocked barely half-an-hour, they’ve developed the intricacies of their songwriting and sound and created something vibrant that’s prepared to draw you back in when it starts to drag. I am left wondering: where on Earth will they go next?

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