Release Date: Jul 24, 2015
Record label: Memphis Industries
Here’s one for the heads: David and Peter Brewis’s latest endeavour is a 20-track cinematic score for Drifters, a seminal film documenting the UK’s herring fishing industry in 1929. It evokes the ferocious waters that smashed against the north-eastern coastline and brought in the bounty, with the brothers conveying the clash of tradition and modernity by dextrously applying their gawky time signatures and inquisitive melodies. In other hands, such a concept might be muddied by pretension, but there’s always been a lightness and humour to Field Music’s compositions, and an oddly aquatic ambience, too – the percussive delicacy evocative of the lapping tide, the idiosyncratic shifting of pace signalling the unease of the environment.
You can never accuse the Brewis brothers of Field Music of being lazy – they’re always up to something. In this case, the score to a documentary made by the man who coined the term ‘documentary’, the Scottish filmmaker John Grierson. The film, Drifters, follows a working day of a herring fishing fleet as they sail from the Shetland Islands to the North Sea fishing grounds.
In the three years since Sunderland-based Field Music’s last album, ‘Plumb’, David Brewis has had a solo album as School Of Language, brother Peter’s made a record with Maxïmo Park singer Paul Smith, and both have ongoing parts in their old bassist Ian Black’s prog-punk project SLUG. As they’ve zig-zagged between jobs, it’s seemed like their main band has been a way off the Brewis brothers’ radar. Yet here they are, sneaking out another Field Music album – albeit a specially commissioned instrumental one – that places their unique brand of realist art-pop in a whole new context.
Composed as the soundtrack to director John Grierson's landmark 1929 documentary film Drifters, Field Music's fifth effort, 2015's Music for Drifters, is the group's first all-instrumental album. A silent film, Drifters documents the difficult, often treacherous lives of a group of North Sea herring fisherman. Fittingly, David and Peter Brewis, the brothers who make up Field Music, grew up in Sunderland, a city located on England's east coast in close proximity to the North Sea.
In the least sinister way possible, the shadows of Peter and David Brewis loom heavily over the North East’s music scene. Known primarily for their work as Field Music, their gifted fingers can also usually be found in several pies at any given time. Indeed, given their numerous solo/solo-ish projects and collaborations down the years, it feels as if they’ve had an input in about half of the music to have come out of the SR postcode area in the past decade.
It's fair to say that Field Music aren't just in it for the money. As well as producing a stream of brilliant leftfield pop for over a decade now, they've also consistently highlighted the financial realities of being in a band when you don't have a trust fund to fall back on. Despite being relatively well-known, they still only make a few thousand pounds a year and as a result, do a lot of soul-searching about whether it's viable to keep going.