Broads – ‘Field Theory’ reviewed

An esoteric hybrid of pop sounds, shoegaze mountainous guitars and droning ambience, Field Theory is an oeuvre of fused genres.

Toze is a seductive opener for the Norfolk duo’s Field Theory. It opens with an empty vacuum of noise, before the strange staves of a keyboard loop silently signposting shoegazed senses. Much like the whole album, really.

An eleven track showcasing the duo’s musical trajectory, Field Theory is their second album, following in the wake of Hellas (2016). A hybrid of pop sounds, shoe gaze mountainous guitars and droning ambience, Field Theory is an oeuvre of fused genres. Co-produced by Broads and Owen Turner (who duly plays bass and horns too), this is an esoteric work for the maligned millennial.

Taking inspiration from the deaths of George Romero and the imagery of old horror movies, there is an aura of the unknown at play here. Guest singer Milly Hirst’s vocals on Climbs are especially haunting, Hirst raising and closing the vocal melody with the potency of a death wish (and with good reason too. Hirst co-wrote the lyrics with James Ferguson, one half of Broads). Lund is similarly desolate in sound, a slow electronic beat is the only solace in a keyboard wall of ennui. Us and The Buzzing is as stark as its title suggests, the pervasive percussive rhythms grow ever louder as the track goes on and on. Fittingly, Broads have plans to work on a live soundtrack for the British Film Institute – their draconic ambience could fit dark celluloid very nicely indeed.

Let Me Take It From Here offers a nicer contrast. Talking about the writing process, Ferguson explains is “one of those tracks that started off very simply and ended up being layered over – we wanted to do something very rich in movement and melody, whilst still retaining the incremental approach to building atmosphere”. He got that one right, Take It is a beautiful sounding song aurally reminiscent of the instrumental New Order/Pet Shop Boy tracks of old, keyboards and drums interconnecting nicely together, without sacrificing the solemn staging the song suggests. Mixed Ability Sequencing is an angry splicing of guitar reverb, less than a minute long, but strong in dynamics and Trent Reznor ballast. Habitats works best of all, driven by an excellent Peter Hook like hook, this is a song that deserves to be an Ipod must.

Not every song deserves to be on said Ipod, and the album ends on a double whammy of weak tracks. The Lecht at nearly seven minutes, is overlong and sludgy, never gearing off the ground for a track of its undue length. Album closer Built Calypso fares even worse, an unoriginal melody soloing and signalling the end of the album, breezing with sounds less music than uninteresting muzak. It sounds passé and a little too fey for a record that oozed moments of terrifyingly inspired ballast.

But otherwise, Field Theory is a qualitative success. Combining the right degree of visceral sound effects (boards, shores and footsteps) with the level of hypnotism this type of album needs, Broads have delivered an arresting work of sound havens and shoegazed guitar dazes.

❉ Broads – ‘Field Theory’ is out now via Humm Recordings. Buy it now from Bandcamp as a download, CD or vinyl LP. Includes unlimited streaming of Field Theory LP via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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