Fieldhead: We've All Been Swimming
Home Assembly Music

Originating out of Leeds, England in 2008, Fieldhead is piloted by Paul Elam, a member of The Declining Winter, in collaboration with violinist Elaine Reynolds (The Boats, The Declining Winter); though sometimes identified as a third member, Sarah Kemp, also of The Declining Winter, doesn't appear on We've All Been Swimming, the group's Home Assembly follow-up to 2009's debut They Shook Hands For Hours. Don't presume from that detail that eight years have elapsed between Fieldhead releases as others have appeared elsewhere; on Gizeh, for example, the group's released a ten-inch vinyl EP, digital live album, and 2012 studio album.

A number of different elements converge in Fieldhead's music. There's a subtle pastoral dimension that might be related to Elam's stays in Western Canada (specifically, Vancouver from 2010 to 2012) and his current home-base Newcastle upon Tyne. The project's electronica side is rooted in its pronounced deployment of synthesizers, while Reynolds' violin playing gives the music a neo-classical feel. Her contributions are critical to the album in the way the humanizing quality of her voice offsets the sometimes machine-like chill of Elam's pulsations; if anything, the album would have benefited from more of her playing. Not all of the electronic details are cold, by the way: analog synths add warmth to the wistful “Accents” and warbly “(The Vermont Hotel Lift)” while also suggesting a through-line from Fieldhead to Boards of Canada.

Arpeggiated patterns generate powerful momentum in a number of tracks, including the opener “Meet Me Somewhere Central,” where a thick synthesizer swarm, undergirded by a shifting beat pattern, snakes through the material with single-minded determination. The title track pushes the electronic dimension to an extreme when Elam nearly drowns percussive punctuations and pitter-pattering chords with an ever-swelling phalanx of wiry synth figures. Less tense by comparison is “How Much I Love the Sea,” which sees Reynolds elevating the bucolic mood and soaring over Elam's willowy swirl with heartfelt, vocal-like expressions. Elsewhere, the insistent minimalism patterns powering “Ton” recall the musics of Colin Stetson and Philip Glass, though the emergence of a booming techno pulse points the material in a clubbier direction halfway through the track. In an era where overlong recordings are common, the ten-song, thirty-two-minute We've All Been Swimming, available in digital and vinyl editions (250 copies), refreshes for making its case with all-too-rare concision.

June 2017