February 2018 sees the return of Field Music with their sixth album, Open Here. The two years since Commontime have been strange and turbulent. If you thought the world made some kind of sense, you may have questioned yourself a few times in the past two years. And that questioning, that erosion of faith - in people, in institutions, in shared experience - runs through every song on the new Field Music album. But there's no gloom here. For Peter and David Brewis, playing together in their small riverside studio has been a joyful exorcism. Open Here is the last in a run of five albums made at the studio, an unprepossessing unit on a light industrial estate in Sunderland.
Whilst the brothers weren't quite tracking while the wrecking balls came, the eviction notice received in early 2017 gave them a sense of urgency in the recording of Open Here. The studio became a sanctuary away from everything political and personal, a cocoon of creativity, and making the album became an alternative way for the brothers to connect to people. A wide array of musicians were invited to leave their mark, notably Sarah Hayes on flute and piccolo, Liz Corney on vocals, Pete Fraser (The Pogues) on saxophone, Simon Dennis on trumpet and flugelhorn, a Cornshed Sisters choir and the regular string quartet of Ed Cross, Jo Montgomery, Chrissie Slater and Ele Leckie. The result is a record that is bigger in scale, grander than anything they've done before.
Album opener, "Time In Joy," turns dark times into sparkling funk, and might even have earned another acknowledgement from a sadly-departed purple superstar in happier circumstances. "Count It Up's" wry critique of privilege bounces along like an upside-down material girl. "Checking On A Message" could be on the apocalyptic party playlist the morning after any number of recent voting catastrophes. Wrestling with politics has gone hand in hand with wrestling with parenthood. "Share A Pillow" is the eye-rolling, eye-rubbing product of one too many nights playing musical beds, turning the pitter-patter of tiny feet into a bludgeoning baritone stomp. "No King No Princess" is a barbed two-fingered salute to gender stereotypes.
On a few tracks, the melancholy finds a way to seep through. "Front Of House" says a too-late goodbye to a good friend gone far too soon. "Daylight Saving" wistfully laments having the time to be a couple when you're preoccupied with being parents. And then on the final song, "Find A Way To Keep Me," an imploring whisper builds to a wild, hurtling clangour, with flute and trumpet and strings diving and trilling around each other.