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Field Music
Flat White Moon Zara Hedderman , May 19th, 2021 09:07

Sunderland's talented Brewis brothers are back with an album so good that its best bits remind Zara Hedderman of Bowie's songs for Labyrinth

“It might be a waste to wait around for certainty / When you could get better / If you take a step / In just one direction,” sing the brothers Brewis on ‘You Get Better’, the closing track of their eighth record, Flat White Moon. A jaunty late-era Talking Heads fused arrangement brims with melodic personality and affirmations typically found on desk calendars decorated with illustrations of kittens clawing onto a branch. This proposition from the duo unconsciously presents an accurate analogy of Field Music’s most recent output. Here, the unexpected twists and turns scattered across their otherwise familiar soundscapes proffer the most intriguing aspects of the work.

For nearly twenty years, the Sunderland-born siblings have consistently delivered a great breadth of tonal range and ideas across their discography. Most recently, Flat White Moon’s predecessor, 2020’s Making a New World served as an alternative history lesson anchored by events and figures of World War I. While their soundtrack work, Music For Drifters, demonstrated a more sophisticated application of their energetic performance-style. Lyrically, too, they easily bounce between politically charged reflections – as was the case with Open Here, a record weighted with the outcome of the Brexit vote – and amusing kitchen sink narratives. On this occasion, their concerns are more personal and colloquial in nature: "We want to make people feel good about things that we feel terrible about," prefaced David Brewis of the record’s core impetus.

At just thirty-eight minutes, the lifespan of these twelve tracks feel as though they exist far beyond their compact duration – most of which clock in at roughly three minutes – due to their sonic abundance. The usual touchstones of The Beatles (see the McCartney-core ‘When You Last Heard from Linda’), Talking Heads, and XTC, remain intact as influences across the record with the occasional dip into more contemporary acts, namely ‘Out of the Frame’ bearing a likeness to early Dirty Projectors. For the duration, the compositions are well mannered and exceptionally pleasant. Rarely do they deviate from the uptempo jaunty melodies in which their fanbase is accustomed. However, they incorporate pockets of abstraction within their formula which do well to give each track its own sense of character, avoiding repetition. Whether playing with sweet 60s sha-la-las and gloriously spacious bridges on ‘No Pressure’, or overlaying a slightly out-of-step vocal performance with ‘Not When You’re in Love’s’ instrumentation, Field Music include these rousing moments to forge a more dynamic listening experience.

The one instance on Flat White Moon where the listener is truly taken aback by the prospect of the duo’s artistry comes at the moment we hit play. Exploding with twinkling synths and groovy bass riffs, ‘Orion From the Street’ has a magical essence reminiscent of David Bowie’s compositions for the soundtrack to Labyrinth. It stands alone in its tone and temperament, and is perhaps the key track that continues to draw the listener back to this world. The brightness of the arrangement acts as a red herring, almost concealing the poetically crafted morbid themes of the lyrics: “A wish to fall in the deepest sleep / If death is but a dream.”

Field Music’s prolific nature across their career has always been impressive, especially considering their unwavering willingness to keep things interesting for both them and their audiences. While at times Flat White Moon struggles to match the awe-striking levels of the album’s opening track, there’s still plenty to enjoy.