Old Fears

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Whilst Field Music are perhaps the best example of modern flavoured prog that we've got, School of Language is very much a pop project. But its a pop record that sounds sparse, cold and industrialised, very much a product of its conception and birth (the North East of England, in particular, Filed Music's own studio on the banks of the Wear where it was recorded). If you don't already know, School of Language is the side-project of David Brewis and its been six years since he last used this moniker as a mouthpiece (if you exclude a few rare outings like this one). This album was recorded in 2013 during Field Music's current (hopefully not indefinite) hiatus. "Distance Between" sets the tone for the record but its not a typical opening salvo, Brewis instead chooses to ease us in without fanfare. "A Smile Cracks" perks things up a bit, especially in its chorus which morphs into an all out DFA style romp. "Suits Us Better" breaks from the slightly cold mood of the album, building layers of vocal harmonies, real drums and a sleepy guitar melody to form an all together gentler and warmer track. "Old Fears" is also an atmospheric high point, an instrumental which perhaps owes a small debt to one of John Barry's great cold war soundtracks. The album goes into a sort of "party mode" with "Dress Up", an 80's pop hit pastiche, just one without any particular feel-good hook. These are great tracks but where Old Fears works best is when Brewis is in a moody, reflective zone. The aforementioned title track and "Moment Of Doubt" spring to mind, both build on weird atmospherics, and subtle melodies (and both end all too quickly). I know Field Music have already dabbled in soundtracks (they recorded a retrospective soundtrack for 1929 silent documentary Drifters, and permiered it at Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival), but some of this music give the impression that this particular Brewis brother would be well at home if he took that pursuit up as a full time job. The album ends with "You Kept Yourself", an surprisingly straight up piano and guitar ballad with some grand moments (and an actually fucking amazing saxophone outro) which occasionally brings to mind a sombre Dire Straits. Old Fears is a mixed bag in terms of styles, but the mood is almost consistently bleak. It won't be an instantly gratifying album for most listeners, but there are numerous moments here where Brewis shows why he, creatively, needed to get this album out.