Field Theory by BroadsRelease date: February 16, 2018
Label: Humm Recordings
Broads from Norfolk (aptly enough) make the sort of lush, uplifting electronica that in a perfect world could be the soundtrack to your life, or, rather, it could be the soundtrack to a perfect life. It’s a well-formed set of songs that harbour no dark moments or no sinister undercurrents and which sweep you along sweetly and add a spring to your step. Broads (or B R O A D S if you search for them on Bandcamp – add the spaces or they don’t exist) is James Ferguson and Mark Jennings, but there are a host of others in the credits, not least vocalist Milly Hirst, who co-wrote ‘Climbs’ (more of which in a moment). Depending on which press release you read this is their second or fourth album, but in any case it’s well worth a listen, as would be a follow-up delve into the band’s back catalogue.
‘Toze’ starts us off, not much more than an intro, really, but it sets the scene, with warm synth tones easing you into the album. First track proper is the aforementioned ‘Climbs’ one of the few tracks with vocals: those of James and Milly. The luscious repeated refrain sung by Milly complements the lyrical lines of James, and together it makes for a gorgeous song, added to by delicate violin and bassy synth undertones. It’s not solid ‘pop’, having as it does a drifting air of ambience, but it’s all the better for it. Lovely.
‘Habitats’ ups the temp a bit and uses a fragmented beat to go along with a single guitar line. The accompanying synth refrain reminded me strongly of Stereolab – post-rock before post-rock was even a thing – and its repeating melody has a very sweet, easy-going feel.
It’s all handled with a very light touch and inspires confidence in the listerner that the music will guide you through. There are a variety of styles and influences, centring around a chilled, melodic, laid-back electronic sound. ‘Lund’ has a drifting drone that resolves into a light synth melody. Fifth track ‘Us and the Buzzing’ has a distinctly Vessels-like air about it (very much latter-day Vessels, a la The Great Distraction), with its jagged, glitchy beats and pulsing synth melody underneath. ‘Let Me Take It From Here’ has a busy electro rhythm that brings to mind an 80s OMD-type soundtrack. The surprise for me is ‘Romero’, which the press release hints is a homage to late film director George Romero, single-handed inventor of the zombie genre and all-round good guy. The lilting, hesitant improvised piano that is the sole instrument on this track is the last I would associate with Romero’s work. It’s more about the sadness of his passing than the subject matter of his films.
‘Tiamat’ opens with a whoosh of ambient sound upon which a delicate, pulsing beat is lain. Boards of Canada and Astralasia could be referenced here, having as it does a mind-expanding openness that encourages thoughts of looking upwards, to the sky. It segues nicely into the all-too short ‘Mixed Ability Sequencing’, which is no more than an interlude, but one which has a tantalising, distorted melody. The hesitant piano that introduces ‘The Lecht’ is almost the end of the abum. It builds nicely into a more rocky (dare I say post-rocky) crescendo that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mogwai or early Godspeed! album. This feels like the end of the album proper and is very fitting. Final track ‘Built Calypso’ I found a bit weak to be placed as the last track. It would sound fine anywhere else on the album but it seems to peter out a little.
In Field Theory Broads have a produced a body of songs that use various, related styles. There are no edges to this music and I found it all instantly likeable. The result is that the tracks sit together beautifully and combine to make one gorgeous album that I can’t recommend highly enough.