Field Music, Stealing Sheep - KCLSU, London
With reverb guitar and close three-part female vocals, Stealing Sheep’s support slot at King’s College Union neatly evoked the psychedelic age. The most straightforward of their songs, which were often based on simple repeated strings of notes, relied for structural development on variations in Lucy Mercer’s drum patterns. Emily Lansley’s spaced out guitar came to the forefront for the set’s highlight: a menacing version of ‘Paper Moon’. With only synths to provide any bass, the apparently hypnotic aims of their songs would sometimes have been more completely accomplished by the addition of a deeper element to the mix.
Field Music have no such hypnotic intent. Mackem brothers Peter and David Brewis tend to employ purposefully thin textures, avoiding psychedelia in favour of succinct, deconstructionist guitar pop in the spirit of Spoon and Deerhoof. There was nothing cold or excessively intellectual about their performance, though: despite the shallow textures at the heart of many of their songs, their jovial demeanours personalised the mood and touring bassist Andrew Lowther’s riffs introduced richness and depth to their compositions.
The skeletal forces they employ – spindly guitars and tight drums – mean that, by necessity, Field Music offer a particularly rhythmic experience. Immediately, with opener ‘Start the Day Right’, their irregular time signatures and the frequent left-turns of their riffs compounded that fact, before ‘A New Town’ fizzed along with the momentum of repeated semiquaver rhythms in drums and guitars.
The nuances of their arrangements require a unified ensemble, which the band provided with an almost classical precision; it was as if each guitar line was a study. The accuracy of the performance fully realised the spirit of each song, whilst the unity of the group added extra special touches to the show: the a cappella vocal miniature ‘How Many More Times?’ saw the four voices moving effortlessly through block chords, whilst – when a verse of ‘Something Familiar’ was held back for some practical reason – the band seamlessly took off again as a single unit.
It’s the little elements like these that can turn a good gig into a great one.