Field Music, Wolverhampton, 12-10-12

Field Music’s latest album, ‘Plumb’, has been nominated for this year’s Barclaycard Mercury Prize, but they remain a well-kept secret. Tonight Wolverhampton has an opportunity to find out what they are all about.

Warm Digits

But what a great opening act! The Warm Digits are an electronic duo comprising Andrew Hobson and Steve Jefferis, who have a new album, ‘Keep Warm… with the Warm Digits’. Field Music’s David Brewis plays bass on the album. Their thunderous pulsating performance of extended tracks consists of the pair playing drums and guitar / electronics in semi-darkness to a swirling multi-colour projected backdrop of abstract shapes and live footage. The music is in the tradition of krautrock and electronic experimentation and two of their tracks are wittily titled ‘Here Come the Warm Digits’ and ‘Trans-Pennine Express’, referencing well-known albums by two of their heroes, Brian Eno and Kraftwerk. The squalling feedback sound also owes something to My Bloody Valentine. The backdrop reminds me of the early experimental Human League (circa 1979) who performed to a (low tech by comparison) backdrop of projected slides with provocative images and slogans. This is a live act really worth catching.

Field Music, Wolverhampton, 12-10-12

How to describe Field Music? They are multi-instrumentalist brothers David and Peter Brewis from Sunderland who have produced four main albums since 2005, as well as solo albums under the names School of Language and The Week That Was. The music undoubtedly falls in the ‘art-rock’ camp, but otherwise defies categorisation. Field Music do not care a monkeys about current musical fashions and just do their own thing and go wherever their muse takes them, absorbing all sorts of influences and styles. They clearly have a very large record collection to draw inspiration from. Many of their tracks could be described as ‘constructions’ of riffs and bits of tunes, with sudden changes in tempo and direction, not easily hummable. They are very much a musician’s band, although in the best possible way. There is an undoubted debt to 1970s prog and jazz-rock bands and King Crimson’s very technical guitarist, Robert Fripp, seems an obvious influence. However, there is lots of other stuff in there also, like Beach Boys harmonies and sometimes the symphonic feel of the Electric Light Orchestra.

Field Music, Wolverhampton, 12-10-12

Interestingly they released a limited edition album of cover songs this year, ‘Play’, which was well-received and has now completely sold out. On it they did some amazing cover versions, including Syd Barrett’s ‘Terrapin’ and the relatively obscure Ringo Starr song ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ from the Beatles White Album. ‘Terrapin’ has been extensively played by Marc Riley, a big fan of the band, on his Radio 6 programme. In the Beatles cover, Field Music managed to skilfully slip-in bits of a number of other Beatles songs in the process, turning it into a kind of subtle Beatles medley. These covers were quite a revelation about Field Music’s skills as interpreters and arrangers of songs and also showed that they have a real pop sensibility. They were also so at home with the covers that it sounded almost like they had written the songs in the first place. Disappointingly they did not play any of the covers tonight. Including some of the covers would certainly have added another dimension to the gig.

Often Field Music play as a duo, but tonight the band is augmented by guitarist Kevin Dosdale and bass player Andrew Lowther, giving more scope for them to do full justice to the complexity of their work. The Brewis brothers swop instruments frequently throughout the evening, impressively moving between drums, guitar and keyboards. Both seem to be particularly good drummers! There are no theatrics and what you hear throughout is their records brought to life in live performance. The songs featured are taken from all of the band’s albums, including David Brewis’s School of Language album.

Field Music, Wolverhampton, 12-10-12

The final song of the set is the anthemic, ‘(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing’, the final cut on the latest album. The audience tonight is relatively small, but clearly includes many keen fans who know the band’s work inside out. An encore is demanded and the band duly returns. They joke that they will do two more numbers, but they could have delayed their return to the stage and just done one. They are a fairly self-deprecating band and even pack up their own equipment after the gig and man the merchandise table. There is audience consultation on the encore and it is decided that they will play ‘Shorter Shorter’ from their first album.

Field Music setlist Wolverhampton without encore

Well, good luck with the Mercury nomination, Field Music. The result is announced in November. Whatever the outcome the band will deservedly get exposure to a wider audience.

Gig Photographs and Review by John Bentley

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