Brothers Peter and David Brewis of Sunderland (who have been making music as Field Music since 2005) released their ambitious, sprawling and majestic double album Measure in 2010. For their fourth LP they’ve opted for brevity and a return to a more fragmented — yet curiously cohesive — aesthetic that dictated their earlier records. The result is a surefooted, fifteen song gallop of 35 minutes; a bustling, voluptuously cinematic ride that swoons, barks and soothes with strutting pop (‘(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing’), woozy asides (‘How Many More Times?’) and kaleidoscopic, snappish arguments (‘Choosing Sides’).
Despite the colorful, jagged temperament of each track on Plumb, Field Music’s river of strings-swept, percussively-pulsed, funk-muscled, prog-teased, falsetto-coaxed, chamber rock flows grandly like the whole of the Thames rather than as a mere sum of meandering tributaries. Defying the iTunes-distracted habit of cherry picking a few songs off of a release, abandoning the decadent pleasure of committing to a whole album, Plumb demands, like a Terrence Malick film, devotion to its entire span. As expertly sequenced as it is conceived, there’s a nagging sense that if you removed one track from Plumb’s complex architecture, even something as simple as the just-over-a-minute orchestral passage ‘Ce Soir’, you would dismantle its entire, fragile infrastructure.
Both brothers diverged briefly from Field Music in 2008 to follow their own solo pursuits — David with School of Language and Peter with The Week That Was — and both take lead here, swiftly switching vocals throughout the album, as if in the midst of an intimate conversation. Their affection for progressive rock of the ’70s is worn as proudly as a battered concert t-shirt — there’s rumblings of early Genesis or Pink Floyd that hoot down Plumb’s corridors — but all is angled by a punk-anguished, abstract expressionist perspective. “I’m stretched like a nylon wire, panic in my body” confesses David in the funk-splashed ‘A New Town’ and it’s that aggrieved confession (and aggravated rhythm) that feeds much of Plumb: ‘Guillotine’ seems measured by a ticking clock, ‘Is This The Picture’ implodes with drummed impatience and the bittersweet ‘Sorry Again, Mate’ morphs into four handsome songs during its mere two-minute lifespan.
Although it could be said that Field Music has sown this patch of ground with a fecund abundance of too-diverse strands, sounds and tangents — aubergines nudging recklessly against asters — the bustling, intelligent, feverish beauty of Plumb blooms as a brilliant revelation … and one of the best albums of this still-young year.