When Field Music announced their dissolution last year, just shortly after releasing their excellent second album Tones of Town, it was a sad day for yours truly. But talking with Peter Brewis after their Bowery Show in March, he dissuaded my disappointment by telling me they were only retiring the name and that he, his brother David and keyboardist Andrew Moore would continue to work together in various incarnations — just not using the Field Music name.
The first of those has surfaced. School of Language‘s Sea from Shore is primarily a David Brewis solo album, in the truest sense of the term as he played nearly every instrument on the record. (Anyone who saw Field Music live should not be surprised by this — the Brewis brothers are multi-instrumentalists.) The name of the project is fitting, as at least half the record is an exploration of the sounds that make up spoken language. The album is bookended by four "Rockist" songs, each one with a Brewis droning "ee ee oh oh ah ah" throughout, taking the place of what might have been a one-note guitar line.
This isn’t Bobby McFerrin material, we’ve got proper rock songs here. Brewis is just experimenting with new sounds. That’s not to say it doesn’t come off as a bit novelty (though not ha ha funny) and annoying at first. But then the vocal noises (almost vocal exercises) melt into the fabric of the songs.
If this is still scaring you off, the songs in the middle of the record are entirely free of this high concept and is not that different from what he did in Field Music, though School of Language is definitely more rock. You’ve still got the precise, sometimes proggy song structures and mannered playing, but the volume has been turned up and given a fat bottom-end. I wonder if Brewis was listening to mid-’90s Flaming Lips while making Sea from Shore? The bass is fuzzed out, and the drums are positively Drozd-esque, especially on the awesome, new wavy-ish "Poor Boy" which should really be a single.
School of Language’s Sea from Shore is out February 5 on Thrill Jockey. (Pre-order now!)
And here’s video of David performing "Rockist Pt. 1" on something called Channel M. And, yes, that is Frank Sidebottom in the background.